Surf lifesavers patrolling the incident-prone NSW far north coast will now have eyes in the sky after two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were put on duty.
The UAVs were purchased through a new partnership between Cudgen Headland Surf Life Saving Club and Gold Coast Airport.
They will form an integral part of Cudgen’s search and rescue response kit, which provides coverage to beaches between Tweed Heads and Ballina.
The UAVs are fitted with alerting devices and can drop an inflatable rescue tube to distressed swimmers if required.
Cudgen Headland SLSC President Adam Mills said the UAVs would improve aerial surveillance capabilities, particularly during search and rescue missions.
“The UAVs are foldable and fit into a travel case, so they can be carried remotely and launched within minutes,” he said.
“They are piloted using a mobile phone and have infrared search capability, meaning we can spot people in the water more easily.
“We can also record and messages and safety announcements via the pilot’s mobile to be broadcast from the onboard speaker, and drop an inflatable rescue tube to swimmers in distress.
“We are extremely grateful for the support of Gold Coast Airport to assist frontline surf lifesaving in the far north of New South Wales.”
Gold Coast Airport Chief Operating Officer Marion Charlton said the company was pleased to be involved, providing equipment that would enhance surf safety for residents and visitors.
“The rate of drownings at beaches along the NSW far north coast is alarmingly high, and we have no doubt this new technology will help save lives,” she said.
“Overseas visitors are particularly vulnerable in our sometimes-unpredictable surf, due to their lack of experience with the conditions.
“Having a full arsenal of technologically-advanced rescue equipment is nothing short of a necessity for our surf life savers, so we are pleased to play a role in the all-important surf safety mission.”