WITHIN minutes of launching, the region’s new surf life saving drone was put to work to assist a group of kayakers off Town Beach, Port Macquarie.
It was hovering over the breaking waves in less than a minute and assisting a surf boat crew off shore.
The call out was an example of just how important drone technology will be in keeping the region’s coastlines safe. The drone is able to drop an inflatable pod device to a person in trouble, buying rescue crews extra time particularly if conditions are tricky.
The launch of the Westpac little Ripper Lifesaver drone on Saturday, May 19, with the support of sugar-free pioneers Nexba, was great news for Surf Life Saving Mid North Coast Branch.
Branch president, Rodney McDonagh, said the safety and surveillance of 180km of coastline under their watch will be enhanced with the new drone technology.
In addition, six 6 volunteer surf life savers from the area will be trained as remote pilots at the Westpac Little Ripper UAV Academy based in Port Macquarie.
“The Westpac Little Ripper drone will provide an additional resource to Surf Life Saving Mid North Coast volunteer lifesavers to enhance their ability to carry out patrols, identify marine hazards, and assist with search and rescue,” Mr McDonagh said.
“The mid north coast area unfortunately responded to a number of critical incidents last season, and the capability offered by drones can assist lifesavers greatly in search and rescue operations.
“This is a great opportunity for our members to improve their skills and provides us with the capability to be adaptable to emergency situations with emerging technology.”
Mr McDonagh said it will create new career opportunities within life saving and broadens the scope of duty officers who are on call 24-7 to respond to any marine related incident.
“This donation is important to keep us relevant with modern emergency management practices and our routine management of beaches on the Mid North Coast,” he said.
“I believe we have the people and resources to be leaders in this field. Obviously our main aim is to maintain a safe environment for the people who use the beaches and adjacent areas. Many of our responses are out of the flags and the application of drones will allow us to respond more effectively and also provide assistance to other organisations.”
Nexba brings their fight to eradicate diabetes and obesity together with Westpac Little Ripper’s mission to save lives. Port Macquarie is to benefit from this initiative in what is the first by Nexba in supporting their local communities in Australia.
Drew Bilbe from Nexba said partnering with Westpac Little Ripper aligns with his company’s focus on good health and supporting local communities.
The drones have the ability to rapidly identify and respond to incidents with specialised abilities tailored for search, rescue and lifesaving pod drops.
Westpac has sponsored the Little Ripper Lifesaver since 2016
“Westpac is proud to support the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesavers in Port Macquarie. The innovative technology of the UAVs complements existing rescue services in the area, such as the Northern NSW Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, and further strengthens our commitment to helping local communities stay safe,” Daniel Gibb, Westpac’s Port Macquarie bank manager said.