Drone rescues swimmers in Australia in world first

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SYDNEY: A drone rescued two swimmers off an Australian beach yesterday, a world first for the fast-developing technology that seems perfectly suited to saving lives at sea, the authorities said.

The rescue took place as lifeguards in Lennox Head - a beach popular with surfers in the state of New South Wales - were preparing for a training session on using drones to pull swimmers to safety.

The practice turned into a real rescue when someone noticed that two men swimming outside safety flags were in trouble in a 3m swell, the government said in a statement.

Lifeguards launched the drone, steered it towards the swimmers and dropped a "rescue pod" into the water, where it expanded so the swimmers could grab it and swim to shore.

"Never before has a drone fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this," said Mr John Barilaro, the deputy premier of New South Wales.

The rescue took 70 seconds. The two swimmers were exhausted but unharmed.

Barilaro said the state government had invested A$430,000 (S$454,000) in a trial of drone technology in December. - REUTERS