Remember the days of model airplanes? Those unmanned marvels are seeming even more quaint than ever in the wake of news that a drone was instrumental in rescuing two men off an Australian beach.
Originally developed for military applications, drones have really caught on with both industry and the public. These lightweight, highly maneuverable devices have also revolutionized aerial photography. Areas of the world previously unavailable to photographers are now being documented with gorgeous high definition still and video images. Sweeping aerial shots in movies, previously only possible using helicopters, are now routinely performed with drones for only a small fraction of the cost and no risk to human life.
The idea of drones being used in rescue situations makes perfect sense given their ability to easily go to remote places. Previously, the thought was that the machines could locate people in trouble, who would then be saved by a rescue party. However, as the incident in Australia proved, these tiny devices also have the capacity to carry an inflatable floatation device. The drone dropped it near the swimmers, who successfully inflated the rescue pod and made it to shore on their own. While their peril may not have equaled someone lost at sea, the two men were being pulled away in a strong current, so time was of the essence. In all, the rescue mission took only 70 seconds. Ironically, the drone had just been unveiled and was about to be sent out on a test run.
The idea of machines performing rescues has previously been science fiction fodder, but this week’s rescue is a further demonstration of just how far this technology is progressing. While the tumultuous weather might prove to be a barrier, it is entirely feasible that drones could even help to save people caught in extreme cold situations by dropping supplies that keep them alive until help arrives.