Drone Comes to the Rescue of Drowning Teenagers

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. dispatch / dɪˈspætʃ / (v) – to quickly send someone or something for a task

    The lifeguards dispatched several boats to help the stranded passengers.

  2. brainchild / ˈbreɪnˌtʃaɪld / (n) – a result of one’s idea or creativity

    The machine is the brainchild of the famous inventor.

  3. mitigate / ˈmɪt ɪˌgeɪt / (v) – to control a problem to make it less severe

    The resort management made stricter guidelines to mitigate trash build-up at the beach.

  4. siren / ˈsaɪ rən / (n) – a device that produces loud sounds to warn people

    The siren was sounded when the fire started.

  5. murky / ˈmɜr ki / (adj) – describes something that is dark and thick

    The water is too murky; I cannot see anything.


Read the text below.

A drone was successfully used in a beach rescue operation in Australia—an incident believed to be the world’s first.

On the day of the incident, Lennox /ˈlɛn əks / Head Beach lifeguards were testing drones called Little Rippers when they received a call about two drowning teenagers. They spotted the teens 2,300 feet offshore, so lifeguard supervisor Jai Sheridan immediately dispatched a drone toward their location.

According to Sheridan, it took just a minute or two to release an inflatable rescue pod using the drone–a routine that would have normally taken lifeguards around six minutes.

The drone is the brainchild of aviator and Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver founder Kevin Weldon. He conceptualized it after witnessing a drone looking for survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Little Ripper has several features designed specifically for rescue operations. The drone can release a portable inflatable rescue pod that can accommodate a maximum of four people. It also has a built-in megaphone for warning swimmers about potential danger, plus a camera that lets the drone operator spot signs of trouble and keep track of swimmers.

In addition to these features, the Little Ripper is also equipped with technology for mitigating shark attacks. Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver has collaborated with University of Technology Sydney for a shark detection software that utilizes artificial intelligence.  The software can analyze images taken by the drone and recognize sharks. Once the software detects a shark, it can sound the drone’s siren or send a message to lifeguards to alert them.

For the further improvement of the software, the developers are considering including a feature that allows deeper exploration of murky waters in the future.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you agree with Sheridan’s decision to use the Little Ripper for actual rescue even while they were still testing it? Why or why not?
• Would you be willing to go to a beach resort where they only have drones instead of lifeguards? Discuss.

Discussion B

• How can rescuers best prepare for the possibility of their rescue equipment/technology malfunctioning?
• Aside from using technology, how else can rescue operations be improved (e.g. training, more staff)?