Lifesavers to watch us from drones
Surf Lifesavers Sonya Salter and Behzad Pourdarab have been trained to fly drones over metropolitan beaches to look out for hazards. Picture: Tricia WatkinsonSource:News Limited
There is going to be an extra buzz in the air at South Australian beaches from this weekend.
Six drones, each worth about $4000, will start patrolling beaches from Goolwa to North Haven from Saturday to warn swimmers about shark sightings, rips and other hazards.
A seventh larger drone, worth about $50,000 and capable of hovering in flight path areas at beaches near Adelaide Airport, is expected to be operational in about six weeks.
The Remote Piloted Aircraft, which can travel at speeds of up to 75km/h, will be monitoring beaches each weekend, on public holidays and on other days as required.
Surf Life Saving SA volunteers have been trained to operate the drones.
The entire State Government initiative, including training, cost $350,000.
Emergency Services Minister Corey Wingard said the technology would add an extra layer of safety to SA beaches.
“The vision from the drones will be monitored by qualified lifesavers who can assess the risks and hazards and will be in communication with (Surf Life Saving SA) headquarters, allowing them to spot any potential problems in the water as they happen, making it genuine life saving technology,” he said.
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“I think South Australians will be buoyed knowing we have now this drone capability to go with our fixed winged planes and our helicopters as well.
“If this can save just one life it’s been money well spent.”
Surf Life Saving SA President John Baker said the drones would allow Surf Life Savers to “determine threats to swimmers a lot quicker”.
“It also allows us to see changing beach conditions, so troughs, channels, rips forming (and) large surf, so it’s not just about sharks,” he said.
Mr Baker said there was a possibility that, pending overseas trials, the drones could eventually be used to deliver rescue equipment, such as flotation devices, to swimmers in trouble.
Surf Life Saving SA state drone co-ordinator Mike Hartas said the drones were fitted with sirens to warn swimmers of potential danger.
He had this advice to beachgoers if they hear the alarm.
“It’s the same as if you hear a siren on the helicopter, on the plane or from the patrol, you leave the water safely and wait for the patrols to advise you when it’s safe to return to the water,” Mr Hartas said.