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Revolutionizing Water Rescue for a Safer Season

In a remarkable leap forward for water rescue operations during the busy festive season in George, the addition of inflatable devices delivered by drones promises to be a game-changer. This innovative technology has the potential to save lives and significantly enhance emergency response efforts, particularly when dealing with swimmers in distress.

The concept is simple yet ingenious: outfit a standard drone with a “payload release” mechanism capable of delivering a self-inflatable floating device (weighing approximately 0.7kg) to a swimmer in distress. This mechanism is seamlessly attached to the drone as an add-on feature. The payload, in this case, consists of a self-inflatable floating device that, on deployment, automatically inflates in the water, providing immediate buoyancy to keep the swimmer afloat until lifeguards or other rescue personnel arrive.

This technology allows for swift and efficient responses to water-related emergencies, significantly reducing response times when compared to traditional rescue methods. Moreover, the drone’s agility enables it to cover more extensive areas swiftly, making it invaluable in situations where time is of the essence. A further useful add-on will be a speaker, allowing our Mobile JOC to speak to the swimmer in distress, as well as the rescue team with the on-board camera providing visuals during the rescue. The inflatable device is re-usable and after retrieval is folded up and repackaged to be used again.

What makes this innovation truly groundbreaking is its emphasis on safety. The inflatable device not only aids the person in distress but also ensures the safety of the rescuers involved. Neels Barnard, the George Chief Fire officer, highlighted that this is a pioneering initiative in South Africa, never before witnessed on local beaches. He added, “The George Fire & Rescue Services team is constantly researching new innovations, and by harnessing the power of technology, we’ve added a vital tool to our water rescue operations that promises to save lives. As we look ahead to its practical application, we can only anticipate more lives being safeguarded, and swimmers in distress receiving the swift assistance they need.”   (Video footage courtesy of SABC)

George Fire & Rescue Services Chief, Neels Barnard keeps an eye while Station Commander, Santa Sternsdorff flies the drone at Wilderness Beach.