Surf Life Saving Australia Expands Drone Operations

January 3, 2019

Over 50 drones will roll out across Australian beaches nationally this summer thanks to a partnership between Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) and Westpac. The program will be Australia’s first comprehensive national approach to surf rescue using innovative drone technology, giving surf lifesavers more eyes in the sky at patrolled beaches around the country.

Equipping surf lifesavers with accurate aerial vision and surveillance technology, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drones (WLSRD) can be rapidly deployed, relay vision with pin-point accuracy to spot rips and distressed swimmers, and have the potential in the future to drop buoyancy devices to assist swimmers until help arrives.

With over 10,000 rescues and 1.5 million preventative actions undertaken by SLSA in the 2017/18 season, the Westpac Life Saver Drone program will enhance Surf Life Saving’s capacity to provide rescue services at more locations along Australia’s coastline, and deliver critical response surveillance when needed.

Westpac Group CEO, Brian Hartzer said Westpac is proud to support the evolution of search and rescue services in Australia, helping beach-goers feel more confident this summer.

“This technology gives surf lifesavers more eyes in the sky to spot rips and distressed swimmers, and respond to those in need sooner.

“The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drones will be an important support for surf lifesavers who are tirelessly dedicated to ensuring the safety of others.

“These life saving drones are an extension of our support of drone innovation via The Ripper Group, who continue to sit at the forefront of shark spotting technology, and builds on our 45 year partnership with the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service, who have conducted 80,000 missions to date,” Mr Hartzer said.

SLSA President Graham Ford AM and Brian Hartzer CEO, Westpac

Graham Ford AM, Surf Life Saving Australia President further adds, “From our research, last year we unfortunately saw 110 coastal drownings above the 14-year average of 99, with SLSA recording a total of 163 coastal fatalities. The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drones will be hugely beneficial to surf lifesavers to spot potential risks in the water as they happen.

“There is no better time than now to welcome new technologies that can help us protect more Australians. We’re pleased to be able to continue our relationship with Westpac beyond our work with the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service to support communities around Australia through the new Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone program,” Mr Ford said.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone program is an extension of Westpac’s existing three year partnership with The Ripper Group, who has been at the forefront of search and rescue drones in Australia; having conducted extensive trialing of coastal rescue capabilities and operation of 17 Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver drones in NSW and QLD.

The Ripper Group will act as Research and Development partner for SLSA to explore ongoing innovation of the drone technology, training for surf lifesavers, and innovation of the award-winning SharkSpotter algorithm. In partnership with Westpac, The Ripper Group will also identify the potential capabilities of drone technology beyond the beach including crocodile spotting and transporting medical equipment.

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