On the spectrum of sexiness, a drone is nowhere close to a lifeguard on a beach. But the flying robotic systems might be a better bet—or at least a faster one—if the goal is to save a person who is drowning.
Unmanned aerial systems are increasingly being deployed in disaster and emergency situations, doing everything from delivering defibrillators to heart attack victims to helping the police search for missing persons.
Now an Iranian incubator called RTS Labs has developed and tested a prototype of a battery-powered drone, called Pars, that could rush to a drowning victim and drop down a life preserver from the air.
Watch the video of Pars in action above.
RTS Lab director and engineer Amin Rigi came up with the idea for the "savior aerial robot" after hearing news reports about people drowning in the Caspian Sea (they note than 1,100 people have died from drowning over the last eight years). The lab first tested a sea-based robot, but realized putting it in the air would be more effective.
They tested a prototype of Pars, which is remote controlled by a human and can fly for 10 minutes on a charge, in the Caspian Sea in August. Pars was able to deliver assistance to a victim who was 75 meters from the beach in 22 seconds, while a human took 90 seconds in the trials.
The drone could have other advantages over a human. It would have no problem with choppy waters, and if a heat camera is added, it could recognize people at night. It could also in theory carry up to three regular life preservers, so it could assist multiple people who are drowning. If landing gear is built, it might even be able to pull someone to rescue.
The creators say that they are now refining the designs based on the tests and hope to introduce the lifeguard robot to international markets. However, they are looking for investments and financial support first. It should be a handy tool to assist lifeguards—rather than replace them—in dangerous drowning situations.