By Tui Benjamin
Two teenage boys sucked out to sea by a rip tide have been saved from drowning by a DRONE in a world first.
Monty Greenslade, 16 and Gabe Vidler, 17, were spotted struggling in rough surf off Lennox Head, New South Wales, at 10.30am AEST today [THURS] after two teenage girls raised the alarm.
The pair had been pulled out by strong rips and were trapped behind 9ft 8in waves which were not easily accessible by boat.
But lifeguards were able to save the teenagers without even getting wet by using a drone to locate them and drop them an inflatable rescue device within 35 seconds of lift off.
The pair then used the flotation device to swim back to shore and were unharmed from their ordeal apart from showing signs of fatigue.
Ben Trollope, chief operations officer of Westpac Little Ripper Group, which operates the search and rescue drones, said: “Two teenage girls made a phone call to surf command, who radioed our guys.
“It was just a coordinated effort after that.
“A floation device was dropped and it inflated within a few seconds, they grabbed it and the waves pushed them in on it.”
Eddie Bennet, Westpac Little Ripper CEO, said the drone technology had been in development for three years to achieve the world first rescue.
He said: “The Westpac Little Ripper’s rescue of the two young swimmers today, in three metre dangerous swell, clearly illustrates the benefit of this cutting edge technology in such a time-critical emergency situation.
“It works, and Australia is leading the world in this technology.”
A spokesman for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industry said they were delighted the technology had proved itself in a rescue situation.
Dr Natalie Moltschaniwskyj, Director of Fisheries Research, said: “We are excited the technology was able to be put into action today.
“It’s a great result following more than 18 months of trials.”