To paraphrase Jaws’ Martin Brody, an Australian rescue organization is “gonna need a bigger drone,” to help save lives along western beaches.
Volunteer-operated Surf Life Saving WA, plans to buy large military-grade drones to patrol beaches in Western Australia, providing visitors with early shark warnings and emergency equipment. The not-for-profit has partnered with Perth-based Shark Shield, a company that manufactures an electronic shark deterrent.
Dubbed the “Little Ripper,” the single-rotor drone costs around $180,000 (USD) and is equipped with a high-def camera and a detachable pod that can hold emergency medical equipment, shark repellant and a life raft.
“It’s got something that inflates automatically and two or three people can hold on to that, it’s strong enough for that,” CEO Eddie Bennet stated in a press release.
“It’s got an electromagnetic shark deterrent device in it as well, high intensity lighting and it’s got a distress beacon. So it’s got everything you need to give you that extra little bit of help until someone comes along to rescue you. I’m really confident that we can deliver a great product here because we’ve got the technology, we’ve got the people and we’ve got the support.
Four months ago, the company tested the Vapor 55 UAV, which can main aloft for 150 minutes and can travel 100 km per charge.
The Phoenix Aerial aircraft weighs 12 pounds and can fly 10,000 feet above sea level, with up to a 55-pound payload.
“Combined with the Shark Shield deterrent technology to be included in the emergency kit, this will be the ultimate combo to reduce the risk of shark attacks and encounters,” Little Ripper Lifesaver founder Kevin Weldon said.
SLSWA services manager Peter Scott said the organization expects to deploy the Little Ripper within two years.
“I would be surprised if within a couple of years, we didn’t have them within our operational makeup,” Scott said in an interview with Perth Now.
In June, South Korean UAV startup Soomvi developed a similar product, the S-200 Rescue drone. The quadcopter can drop flotation devices to drowning swimmers as well as patrol waterways for maritime search and rescue.