Positive Press – Drones Used for Beach SafetyJanuary 21, 2019 8 By Scott Hinkle
Too many times we see drones being cast in a negative light online and in the news. I’ve been trying to provide examples of drones doing good in my Positive Press series of posts and this one, on drones used for beach safety, is another such post to that end. Please see my previous post titled Positive Press – Drones Doing Good and future posts, in this series for, additional positive examples of drone use.
I’m not the only one posting drones doing good either. DJI likes to share how their drones are used in life saving efforts too. Here’s one such post from their own website: Public Safety Drones Save Four Lives In One Day.
Drones are not simply toys anymore. What once was just a hobbyist passion has now grown into multi-billion dollar industry with wide-spread use in various categories. From photography and videography to agriculture, construction, search and rescue, firefighting, power/oil line inspection and so much more, there really is no limit to how drones are being used every day. Today’s post is going to focus on the various ways drones are being used for beach safety.
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As you can imagine, one of the tasks placed on many lifeguards around the world is not only to keep an eye on those enjoying the beach and water but to watch for potential hazards and predators. There’s only so much you can see from a slightly elevated platform such as a lifeguard stand. Enter the drone. Not only does a drone give you a much higher vantage point, allowing you to see much more area, but, with various filters, it can cut through the reflection and glare to give a much clearer picture of the water below and what may be lurking beneath.
Search and Rescue
Again, a higher vantage point, the ability to cover a larger area and filter options make finding people easier. Just getting over the waves to have a clear view can make a huge difference. If the drone is equipped with an infrared camera, all the better. It’s a lot easier to pinpoint a heat blip on the screen vs someone in a dark wet suit against a dark background.
The above just touches on the searching part of search and rescue. See the section below on Life Vest/Ring Delivery for the rescue portion.
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In this case, I’d say “a picture from above is worth a thousand horizon scans”. What I mean by this is, consider what the average lifeguard has to do to keep an eye on everyone. They scan the horizon over and over and look for signs of distress, potential hazards and so on. The view from above really does give you a better picture. No waves in the way. No people blocking your view of someone or something else. Clearer views into the water itself and so on. I can really see how using a drone can enhance the over-all picture and reduce the load placed on lifeguards.
DJI recently released the Mavic 2 Enterprise. Among its features is a loudspeaker add-on. Pop one of those on, and fly over a busy beach to deliver important information or to someone in distress to let them know help is on the way, etc. Not only do you have a device to help with situational awareness but now it can be used to communicate with those in need and help with crowd control.
Life Vest/Ring Delivery
This one is a continuation of the search and rescue section above. How about using a drone to deliver life-saving gear and equipment? Imagine a drone that can deliver thermal protection gear to a sinking ship in extremely cold waters or one that can drop important gear in rough seas.
The above examples are pretty cool in themselves, if not a bit extreme for this post. Now let’s scale it down to your average beach-going scenario, life vest/flotation device delivery. Say you have someone in distress, who might be quite a ways out and would take significant time to reach in a rescue situation. Enter the life vest dropping drone.
Usually larger, bulkier drones are used because of weight and wind considerations but there are people working to make smaller drones useful in such situations as well. The images you see here are of a DJI Mavic Pro outfitted with a bait release system to drop the gear instead of bait.
The quickest route between two points is a straight line. No having to navigate around people, fight the current or deal with crashing waves. Just fly over everything and drop the life-saving gear and do so in a matter of minutes. Imagine the time savings alone. Just a couple of minutes can mean the difference between a scare or rescue and a recovery operation.
It’s really nice to see some positive press when it comes to drones. Using drones for beach safety is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. My only fear is that current legislation may prevent some safety personnel from utilizing such great tools by requiring waivers to be obtained and so on. On that note, there’s hope that changes are coming. See my FAA Drone Rules – Will We Be Able to Fly at Night and Over People? post for more info.
I’m really excited to see what’s next for drones. We really are only limited by our imaginations. Thermal cameras, speakers, glare and reflection cutting filters, it just gets better every day. Add to that, people working to make consumer drones a viable option vs larger, bulkier and more expensive specialized drones and you have a cost effective solution that can be adopted on a wider scale. It actually makes me want to hit local beaches and see if any of them are utilizing drones to enhance safety and rescue operations.
Do you have experience with drones and beach safety? Are there additional topics I should cover in this post? Do you have any thoughts, concerns or comments? I’d love to hear them. Please comment below. I read and respond to each and every one.
I am such a lover of drones, I had to go out and get one myself. Drones can be so useful and i was happy to read your post highlighting such a positive aspect. Wow shark spotting is really important! if I could go to a beach with drones flying around to ensure my safety I would not be mad at all. Thanks so much for sharing, really enjoyed reading.
I agree. I’d have no issues with drones flying around for safety reasons. The only things I can see as a possible issue are Kite Surfers, Kites and maybe people bothering the drone pilot asking all sorts of questions, LOL.
Thanks for commenting.
This makes so much sense! Using a drone in addition to having a lifeguard is like a building having security cameras as well as a security guard. The security guard has an important role to play, but he/she can’t see everything at once. But drones would go even beyond security cameras, because as you said, they can do more than just providing a good view and taking pictures. Thanks for sharing this!
That’s a great analogy! I just see it as an enhancement to current safety precautions.
Drones are an excellent innovation when used for the right purposes. In terms of security, they provide a better aerial view than horizontal scanning. In that case, any guard on the beach can see a wider area without obstruction.The idea of using drones to deliver safety gears to people in distress is a welcome development. My only worry is: How are governments going to control ownership of and deployment of drones, since they can be purchased online. Just like any modern innovation, drones have a potential for many positive use as well as unfavorable ones, if found in the wrong hands.
So true. If adopted on a wide scale, I can see flight operations being restricted at beaches or some sort of airspace tracking system implemented to reduce/prevent collisions and so on. It will be interesting to see how things progress as drones find more and more uses.
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Wow…I learned a lot from this post, Scott. I hadn’t considered the ramifications of using drones for beach safety. I have lived in both southern California and in Florida, so I know all-too-well how much danger than can be among the waves. Sharks in particular were often an issue, and providing more sight distance to lifeguards seems like a no-brainer. And I can see the ability to drop safety gear being a total game-changer in certain situations, not only in the water but in any rough terrain (thinking mountain hikers here). Beyond the specifics, I like the whole concept of your “Positive Press” series of articles that will highlight all the good drones can do. I look forward to future posts.
Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. We’re virtually twins! I’m from Northern California and lived in Fort Lauderdale for about 8 years. I agree, dropping gear and supplies is not limited to the beach by any means and the ability to do so can have a profound impact on search and rescue efforts virtually anywhere. I’m working on several other posts that show the positive impacts drones are having. Please come back and check them out.