These Drones Keep Beachgoers Safe in Spain

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    (AP) Beach goers on Spain’s Costa del Sol are putting their trust in technology to keep them safe.

    When an S.O.S. comes in, it’s not just the lifeguards who head out to sea – a drone goes too.

    It locates the person in trouble and gets ready to drop some life-saving equipment.

    On board the drone are two life vests.

    They have an electronic self-inflating system which activates once in contact with water.

    With this extra buoyancy helping the swimmer stay afloat, the lifeguards have crucial extra time to reach them and pull them out of the water to safety.

    The unique technology has been designed by Spanish company Aeromedia U.A.V., which was founded in A Coruña, Galicia, in 2012.

    “It carries two life vest which are captive but they can be thrown, this drone also transports defibrillators to any point on the beach where any victim or any other lifeguard needs it,” says General Director of Aeromedia U.A.V., Aquilino Abeal.

    “We have a megaphone in it. We have a camera with a very powerful zoom to help health services and civil protection services to take decisions.”

    The drone weighs 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds), it can travel 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the beach and it has sensors to avoid obstacles.

    Thanks to its batteries, it can fly for 45 minutes.

    These drones are currently keeping watch across five beaches in Fuengirola and Mijas in the Malaga region.

    Aeromedia equipped the drones with loudspeaker systems to communicate with people in danger.

    It’s an addition the emergency services appreciate.

    “While they activate a jet-ski, or a zodiac boat, or any other devices or vehicles to go out into the water, we can already be supporting the victim who is in the water,” says Abeal.

    “They believe this is fundamental. Not only for throwing the life vest but because that person (the victim) is aware of the fact that someone is there, they know that the emergency services are aware that they are at risk and are coming. All that will make this incident not become a greater risk and have a happy ending.”

    The cost of this service is around 25,000 euros for the summer season – which runs from mid June to mid September.

    That price includes the drone, drone pilot and accessories such as the two life vests, defibrillators, megaphone and camera.

    The drones are operated by workers from Aeromedia.

    They have been working on the beaches for the last five years.

    “The help we provide to life guards, what they always highly value is that we are able to see (far away) in a few seconds something that they think it is not normal. There may be swimmers outside the bathing area and they want to know if they are ok,” says drone pilot Salvador De los Rios.

    Bad weather days at sea are even more complicated for lifeguards and emergency services to bay watch.

    “When the victim is far away and there is a very strong wave breaker, the jet ski cannot go instantly. When entering into the water we have to wait for the wave sequence to be extremely safe for the lifeguard and that will take a little longer. In these cases, the drone can arrive, throw the life vest, the victim has buoyancy, the risk is minimised and (later) we can approach ourselves with the lifeguard and the jet ski,” explains lifeguard Gonzalo Botta.

    Spain’s coastline runs for 8,000 kilometres, lapped by the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

    Spanish beaches are gearing up for a first summer season since COVID-19 vaccinations started to be rolled out.

    The country is one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations and tourism industry is a mainstay of its economy.

    The tourism sector accounted for 12 percent of Spanish GDP in 2019 when 83.7 million people visited Spain, according to the Spanish government (INE).

    However, last year it suffered economic devastation due to limits on travel and gatherings brought on by the pandemic. It plummeted to just under 6 percent of Spanish GDP in 2020.

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