They Were Being Pounded by Waves. Then the Drone Came

'Little Ripper' helped save 2 teen boys in rough surf off Australia
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2018 9:01 AM CST

In what the deputy premier of New South Wales is calling a "historic" rescue, two teens were saved from choppy surf thanks to a drone that dropped an inflatable safety device to them—all as it recorded the rescue. The BBC reports that Aussie lifeguards were still testing how to use the Little Ripper drone when a beachgoer saw the boys, said to be between the ages of 15 and 17, struggling in the water nearly a half-mile from shore. The lifeguards immediately launched the drone, and Quartz points to the video footage of the rescue, which is also making the rounds on YouTube. The drone first glides over the aquamarine waters, then spots two tiny black dots (the teens) being pounded by the waves down below. The clip then shows the drone drop the bright-yellow rescue device, which self-inflates when it hits the water. The boys grab hold of the inflatable and kick their way back to shore.

The head lifeguard who sent the drone out calls it an "amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly," per the Sydney Morning Herald. He says he was able to get the drone off the ground and the inflatable to the boys all within a couple of minutes; a local parliament official says a lifeguard rescue would have likely taken up to six minutes. The New South Wales government just last month announced it had put up about $345,000 for a drone fleet, with some meant for rescues like this and others designed for other purposes, such as spying sharks in the water. "This was an extraordinary rescue with the very best possible outcome," a local parliament member notes. The rescued boys were exhausted when they got to shore but seemed otherwise OK. (A drone saved a 92-year-old hunter in Virginia.)

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