Two teenagers who had been swept out to sea in Australia were rescued after a drone spotted them and dropped a flotation device in what is believed to be a world-first use of the technology.
The 17-year-old and 15-year-old boys were seen in distress after becoming caught in a rough swell of about ten-feet, half-a-mile offshore at Lennox Head, north of Sydney.
A beachgoer notified life guards, who quickly deployed the drone. It spotted the pair within two minutes and dropped an inflatable flotation device. The boys clung to the device and swum to shore.
"There is no other lifesaving operation or organisation worldwide that is doing what we're doing on the size and scale that we're doing it," Kelvin Morton, from Surf Life Saving NSW, told ABC News.
"These [unmanned aerial vehicles] that we're using to drop these inflatable pods is innovative, and we know that most or all of the lifesaving organisations around the world are stepping back and waiting to see how this goes."
Authorities estimated it would have taken about six minutes for life guards to reach the pair, compared with just 70 seconds by the drone after it had located them.
Jai Sheridan, a lifeguard supervisor who piloted the drone, said it was an “amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly”.
"I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes,” he told Fairfax Media.
A trial of the drones is due to end in April.
"It [the drone] gives them [life guards] eyes across the water at a height of 60 metres [200 feet] and they can move at 50 kilometres [31 miles] an hour," said Mr Morton.
"They've never had that ability before. They can see things in the water that a jet-ski simply cannot."
The trial comes as life guards across Australia have begun to use drones to spot sharks.
The drones have already led to several beaches being evacuated this summer.