Two teenagers have been dramatically rescued from dangerous surf by a drone, a world first on the New South Wales North Coast.
The 16- and 17-year-old boys had been struggling in three-metre swell, about one kilometre north of the patrolled area at Lennox Head, when a friend raised the alarm to lifeguards at 11.30am on Thursday.
Lifeguard Jai Sheridan piloted the drone to them, which deployed a floatation device. The boys were then kept afloat and able to safely make their way to shore.
They were unharmed, aside from some fatigue.
Watch the rescue below:
#RESCUE Lennox Head became the scene of a WORLD FIRST rescue on Thursday when the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver UAV successfully deployed a rescue pod to two men caught in powerful surf conditions!
— Surf Life Saving NSW (@slsnsw) January 18, 2018
“The Little Ripper UAV certainly proved itself today it is an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly,” said Mr Sheridan, the 2017 state Lifeguard of the Year.
“I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes. On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public.”
NSW has endured a hazardous swell warning over recent days, with beaches closed between Byron Bay and Sydney earlier in the week.
One of the boys, Monty Greenslade, told Channel Seven it was “definitely a sigh of relief” when the drone reached them.
“It’s definitely not how I thought this afternoon would go,” he said, of the world-first rescue.
The other teen, Gabe Vidler, said it was “crazy” how fast the drone reached them.
Lennox Head: Teens Gabe Vidler and Monty Greenslade were part of Australian history today when they became the first people to be rescued by a drone while swimming in the ocean. https://t.co/gk5Jhzkj0M @gabemv2 #LennoxHead #7News pic.twitter.com/3Bduxgbq3m
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 18, 2018
Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin, said the drone allowed the rescue to take just seconds instead of several minutes.
“It took only 70 seconds from when the Little Ripper drone was launched to when it dropped the pod into the ocean for the rescue, a task that would usually take a lifeguard up to six minutes to complete,” Mr Franklin said in a statement on Thursday.
The state government committed $430,000 to a trial of the drones off the North Coast in December last year.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the rescue proved the trial had paid off.
“This is a world-first rescue,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Never before has a drone, fitted with a floatation device been used to rescue swimmers like this.
“It’s quite incredible to see that the NSW government’s investment in this technology has already resulted in two people having their lives saved.”
The Department of Primary Industry has also used the technology as a research tool for shark surveillance off the North Coast.
Lifeguards were training to familiarise themselves with the drones when they were alerted of the struggling swimmers.
“We are excited the technology was able to be put into action today and it’s a great result following more than 18 months of trials that have explored how drones can be used for shark surveillance,” said the director of fisheries research, Natalie Moltschaniwskyj.