Tassie first for surf lifesaving

IN a state first for surf lifesaving, a new Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone will operate across Tasmania, marking an important leap forward in the evolution of search and rescue.

To officially kick off the new program, which is being delivered thanks to a partnership between Westpac and Surf Life Saving Australia, the drone’s capabilities were put to the test during a mock rescue held at Clifton Beach in late March.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone, which will be based out for Frederick Henry Bay, will perform critical aquatic search and rescue surveillance for surf lifesavers during busy patrol periods.

The drone will also be available across the state and throughout the year to support emergency services as required.

Westpac state general manager for Tasmania Lester Wynne-Jones said Westpac was proud to support the evolution of search and rescue in the state.

“The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone program will help local surf lifesavers across Tasmania by providing more eyes in the sky to support patrols and emergency services,” he said.

“This new technology will assist those on the frontline by informing emergency responses and providing important assessments of rescue situations, meaning Australian families can feel safer.”

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone can relay vision with pin-point accuracy and will be able to use thermal imaging and a loud speaker to assist search and rescue operations such as missing persons, drownings and floods.

It will also help to spot rips, distressed swimmers and potential hazards in the water, as well as have the potential in the future to drop buoyancy devices to assist swimmers until help arrives.

With more than 93 rescues and 9,225 preventative actions undertaken by Surf Life Saving Tasmania in the 2017/18 season, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone program will enhance Surf Life Saving’s capacity to provide rescue services at more locations throughout the state, as well as deliver critical response surveillance when needed.

Surf Life Saving Tasmania chief executive officer Tony van den Enden said the use of drones for aquatic search and rescue would be a state first in Tasmania for surf lifesaving.

“With more than 9000 preventative actions undertaken by Surf Life Saving last year, there is no better time than now to welcome new technologies with pathways for current and new members that can help us protect more Tasmanians,” he said.

“We’re pleased to be able to continue our relationship with Westpac beyond our work with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service to support communities through the new Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone program.”

The new program will see the rollout of 51 drones to Surf Life Saving clubs around the nation.

For more information, visit www.westpac.com.au/rescue.

Caption: rom left, Westpac regional general manager for Tasmania Justin Caccavo, Surf Life Saving Tasmania operations manager Boyd Griggs and Westpac Life Saver Rescue Drone pilot Toby Whitton at Clifton Beach. Photo credit: 1826.