Credit: Government of New South Wales (

Credit: Government of New South Wales (

Drone saved two teenage swimmers in New South Wales in world’s first drone ocean rescue

On Jan 19, lifeguards at Lennox Head, New South Wales, used a drone to locate distressed swimmers and dropped a rescue pod to save the two teenage swimmers.

According to an announcement by the Government of New South Wales (NSW), the ocean rescue happened at Lennox Head where two teenage swimmers struggled in powerful 3-meter surfs about a kilometre off the coast of NSW.

Lifeguards at Lennox Head were testing the drones for a shark mitigation program when they were alerted to 2 struggling swimmers who are aged between 15 and 17. They then fitted a float to the drone, known as the Little Ripper, and piloted it to the struggling swimmers within minutes of the initial alert.

The Little Ripper only took 70 seconds to reach the swimmers and released the float from above. With the help of the floatation device, the fatigued swimmers returned to the shore uninjured. Without the help of a drone, it would take a lifeguard up to 6 minutes to reach swimmers in need.

In the Government announcement, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro described that it was incredible to see the NSW Government’s investment in drone technology resulting in two lives saved.

According to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, Westpac Little Ripper Chief Executive Eddie Bennet called drones the new generation of rescue services and that the rescue clearly illustrates the benefit of this cutting-edge technology in such a time-critical emergency situation.

“The Little Ripper UAV certainly proved itself today, it is an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly,” Lifeguard Supervisor Jai Sheridan involved in the rescue commented, in the above-mentioned Sydney Morning Herald report.

In December 2017, the NSW Government announced that it would invest A$430,000 in a trial of drone technology. Other than ocean rescue missions, Australia is also testing the capabilities of drones to detect sharks, jellyfish and, other marine predators using artificial intelligence algorithms based on photo images. Some of the drones are also equipped with alarms and loudspeakers for public safety announcement purposes.

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