Clare County Council has partnered with an indigenous software start-up to boost lifeguarding operations by trialling the use of drone technology for automated beach patrols for the first time ever on Irish beaches.

DroneSAR, the developers of a new drone search and rescue app, will work with the local authority so that lifeguards will be able to quickly deploy drones as their first response to monitor swimmers in distress.  The flight-planning software allows drones to scan large areas from the skies, this will reduce risk to search and rescue personnel, shorten search times, and ultimately help save lives.

A recent Swedish study showed that it takes a 14-strong lifeguard team an average of 4 minutes 34 seconds to search and locate a manikin in a 100m by 100m area.  In comparison, a drone team, comprising one pilot and lifeguard, took an average of 47 seconds to search the same area.

Commenting on the initiative, Clare McGrath, water safety development officer with Clare County Council said, “Our lifeguards are tasked with quick response times and do so over large distances. Fast detection is crucial in the Drowning Chain of Survival. This new flight management technology, will deliver key operational advantages for our county’s beach lifeguard operations by enabling them to quickly search for people who are missing, injured or get early notification of people in distress. Any piece of equipment that will allow a quicker dispatch time for ambulances, medical assistance and increased beach patrols will be a huge advantage.”

Under the new partnership lifeguards at Spanish Point beach will be equipped with the most modern drone technology and software. DroneSAR will provide the drones and Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) drone instructors to supervise the operation in its early stages. Drones will be flown within the bounds of the IAA drone regulations.

A live-video downlink will enable the search pattern of each drone to be monitored by the lifeguard from the lifeguard hut. A live browser secure link can also be used to remotely monitor search progress from any computer or laptop.

According to Oisin McGrath, CEO of DroneSAR, “Lifeguard teams using DroneSAR will be able to monitor live footage from the furthest reaches of their patrol areas, with instant access to call emergency services should the need arise. Drones can now be viewed as airborne lifeguards who cover large amounts of ground quickly and easily. As a past beach lifeguard, I am extremely excited about the endless possibilities that these trials will bring to the world of beach patrols.”