Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) and Westpac have teamed up to deploy 51 drones around Australia during the nation’s beach-going months.
The drones are intended to provide aerial vision and surveillance to help spot rips and swimmers in distress, and could in future drop buoyancy devices to swimmers, the pair said.
Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) President Graham Ford said the drones will be “hugely beneficial”.
“There is no better time than now to welcome new technologies that can help us protect more Australians,” he said.
The drones will be located throughout the New South Wales and Queensland coasts; at St Kilda and Frankston in Victoria, as well as a mobile unit; Semaphore Beach and Christies Beach in South Australia; at Frederick Henry Bay in Tasmania; at Cottesloe, Fremantle, Meelup, Smiths Beach, Secret Harbour, City Beach, Trigg, and Mullaloo in Western Australia; and one unit in Darwin.
The announcement is an extension of the bank’s three-year deal with The Ripper Group.
In August last year, Westpac and The Ripper Group announced drones would be trialled in 17 locations across Queensland and NSW. Those drones were used to detect sharks and release a floatation device.
The Ripper Group is set to explore other drone uses including crocodile spotting and medical equipment transport.
Queensland is set to test the use of unlimited free Wi-Fi to push safety alerts in an effort to prevent tourists from drowning this summer.
The trial will occur at 10 beaches, and see alerts sent to smartphones in English, Arabic, Hindi, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Thai.
“The new technology, called Life-Fi, will allow beachgoers to access unlimited free Wi-Fi between the flags along with a live feed of multilingual information,” Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) said last month.
The language barrier between surf life savers and beachgoers has been an issue in the past, SLSQ said; over the last 10 years, 75 people have drowned on Queensland beaches, 31 of which were foreign tourists or recent migrants.
“It’s not uncommon to see international beachgoers who don’t speak English and who don’t have a lot of experience in the surf, and it can be a really challenging situation for our lifesavers and lifeguards,” SLSQ CEO John Brennan said.
“Even trying to communicate simple messages such as ‘swim between the flags’ or ‘watch out for that rip’ can be almost impossible at times when you don’t speak the same language.
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