Drones as Lifeguards—Police in San Mateo, CA Test the Use of Drones to Save People from Drowning

Zacc Dukowitz

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The San Mateo Sheriff’s Office is testing the use of drones as lifeguards.

Rather than diving into the water to rescue people in distress, the drones will be used to carry and drop life jackets into the water.


In 2019 and 2020 the San Mateo sheriff’s office responded to double the amount of water rescues than it had in past years. And in the first month of 2021, two people drowned.

The sheriff’s office launched its drone program about a year ago, but didn’t get the idea to use drones for water rescues until recently, when someone in the department learned of a volunteer firefighter who had been exploring the idea.

Read today's post to learn more about the "drones as lifeguard" program, and for some other news about how drones are keeping people safe from sharks in the ocean.

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We were doing this in 2017-2018, miles out at sea, using a FLIR DuoProR to locate the people in the water, streaming the location data back to the ship that would launch a second drone with a lifesaver and use radar to navigate it to the people in the water. It was amazing how accurately they could drop the lifesaver from about a mile away.  


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