In cases involving rough surf, remote locations or natural disasters, where conditions may be hazardous and time is a factor, Professor Blumenstein said, drones are able to help operators assess a situation without endangering human lives. Farmers have also found practical applications for drones, using them to efficiently assess the health of their crops, for example.
But in crowded urban areas, Professor Blumenstein said, security concerns may still be an issue. “People are still, I think, wary of low-hanging hovering objects, and rightfully so,” he said.
In December, the state government of New South Wales announced that it would invest 430,000 Australian dollars, or $345,000, into drone technology as part of a trial on the state’s North Coast.
John Barilaro, deputy premier of New South Wales, said after Thursday’s rescue that the investment had already paid off. “Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device, been used to rescue swimmers like this,” Mr. Barilaro said.
The software developed by Professor Blumenstein’s team could soon become a vital tool for lifeguards.
“There’s no reason why we couldn’t use it to automatically detect people in the water,” he said.
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