New device could help save distressed swimmers from the air

New device could help save distressed swimmers from the air

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - A new piece of technology could help save you the next time you take to the ocean.

"The drowning process is very short. You are talking seconds to a minute, so anything giving us the edge on responding is what we are trying to do," said Sam Proffitt with the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department.

For the past three months, the WBFD has been testing a drone that could shorten response time to get to swimmers in distress.

"What we are doing is using our current drone and attaching a personal floatation device to it that we can drop below to a struggling swimmer or someone that appears to be drowning," said Proffitt.

Ocean rescue crews have been training by dropping the device in the ocean and then pulling "victims" to shore with a rope and a truck.

"It is an old way of life-saving, and we are building on that like a landline used by lifeguards back in the day," said Proffitt.

Proffitt says drones won't replace lifeguards, but since they are only on the stands seven to eight hours a day, this will assist when they are not on patrol.

"With the current technology, nothing beats a lifeguard," said Proffitt. "That is going to be your No. 1 to prevent drownings and statistics clearly prove that so we are looking at is a new resource to assist them. "

Check out the test video here:

WECT's Chelsea Donovan will show you how it works Friday night on WECT News.

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