Simulation and education| Volume 127, P63-67, June 2018

Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to prevent drowning



      Drowning literature have highlighted the submersion time as the most powerful predictor in assessing the prognosis. Reducing the time taken to provide a flotation device and prevent submersion appears of paramount importance. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide the location of the swimmer and a flotation device.


      The objective of this simulation study was to evaluate the efficiency of a UAV in providing a flotation device in different sea conditions, and to compare the times taken by rescue operations with and without a UAV (standard vs UAV intervention). Several comparisons were made using professional lifeguards acting as simulated victims. A specifically-shaped UAV was used to allow us to drop an inflatable life buoy into the water.


      During the summer of 2017, 28 tests were performed. UAV use was associated with a reduction of time it took to provide a flotation device to the simulated victim compared with standard rescue operations (p < 0.001 for all measurements) and the time was reduced even further in moderate (81 ± 39 vs 179 ± 78 s; p < 0.001) and rough sea conditions (99 ± 34 vs 198 ± 130 s; p < 0.001). The times taken for UAV to locate the simulated victim, identify them and drop the life buoy were not altered by the weather conditions.


      UAV can deliver a flotation device to a swimmer safely and quickly. The addition of a UAV in rescue operations could improve the quality and speed of first aid while keeping lifeguards away from dangerous sea conditions.


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