The swimmers were caught in a riptide on Jan. 18 just off the coast of New South Wales, Australia, when a member of the public reported that they were in need of assistance. The “Little Ripper” drone happened to be in the area and within minutes was able to locate the swimmers and drop them a flotation device, several minutes before a human response team would have been able to provide assistance.
According to the Australian Broadcast Corporation, the drones had been unveiled only hours before the incident, as part of a government initiative to use them to mitigate shark attacks. A New South Wales veteran lifeguard was piloting the drone as part of a training exercise to familiarize the lifeguard staff with the device. The drone happened to be well-positioned to respond when the call came in, giving it the chance to prove its usefulness in a real-life scenario.