Westpac Little Ripper UAV: saving lives in Australian waters | Photo: Little Ripper

A drone saved the life of two distressed young swimmers caught in high surf in a beach near Lennox Head, in New South Wales, Australia.

A group of Australian lifeguards was testing the use of drones in lifesaving operations when they spotted two boys in trouble using the unmanned aerial vehicle's (UAV) camera.

And what was supposed to be practice flight became a real-life rescue. In no more than 70 seconds, the drone flew above the young men and released the inflatable rescue pod.

The Westpac Little Ripper UAV saved the duo from drowning in 10-foot waves because it is faster getting to the scene comparing to a standard human run-and-paddle lifesaving effort.

The teenagers had been dragged by a rip current and were too far out to sea.

"I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes. On a normal day that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public," underlined Jai Sheridan, a lifeguard supervisor.

After grabbing the yellow flotation device, the boys made their way to the beach safely where they met a team of lifeguards that had just arrived on an ATV.

It was the first time a drone equipped with lifesaving gear helped save struggling ocean swimmers. Sheridan, who's been named 2017 NSW Lifeguard of the Year, says the drone is "an amazingly efficient piece of lifesaving equipment and a delight to fly."

In the future, lifeguards believe that the incorporation of UAVs in lifesaving training courses will accelerate the rescue process and save more lives.

Drones are used in coastal operations in Australia since 2016. A series of trials explored their potential as a tool for spotting and tracking sharks in country's most crowded beaches.

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