It is grimly estimated that 372,000 people each year meet their end through drowning. Whether it be in a bath, a swimming pool, a lake, or most frequently, in the ocean, it is a significant public health hazard. Aside from teaching people to swim, training lifeguards and having an active coast guard, it would appear that there are few preventative measures at our disposal.
Saying this, innovations and inventions are being designed every day to fill the gaps in human knowledge, human protection, human comfort and more. In this article, we are looking at two pieces of lifesaving aquatic inventions that may be able to reduce the mortality rate of drowning.
Designed to race through strong surf and tough rip currents, EMILY, which loosely stands for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, can track a person that needs saving and is durable against rocks and waves. It is often used to provide floatation until a rescue boat arrives, or to deliver life-jackets to people stuck out at sea.
What is most interesting about EMILY, a product of ‘Hydronalix’, is the amount of scepticism it received upon first hitting the market. With rising unemployment, public support for the automation of jobs is at an all-time low, so the perceived notion of automating the role of a lifeguard was slightly unpopular. Despite the early hurdles, after saving lives around the world, people began to accept that when it comes to life and death, the most efficient way is really the best way.
While a human lifeguard can only save one person at a time, EMILY can save five, thanks to its buoyancy, strength and a series of ropes and grapples that can be clung onto until a boat arrives. It’s a cool piece of tech too, not only because it strangely comes from landlocked Arizona, but because it’s remote controlled and can be thrown from an aeroplane or helicopter!
There are obvious flaws. It’s no use for an unconscious swimmer, firstly and that it could, in theory, collide with swimmers and cause injury. EMILY does have a sister device called the Hurricane Tracker which is great for preventing disasters, especially when you consider that during a tsunami or flood, 75% of deaths are from drowning.
USAFE is quite different to EMILY, in that it is smaller, lightweight and designed to save just one person at a time. The horseshoe design allows it to be thrown easily into the water, and then a simple-to-use controller is used to manoeuvre it towards the drowning person. That person fits nicely into the U-shaped life-ring and the operator drives them back to safety.
Using twin jet propellers, USAFE can travel robustly, and even when caught in a rollover or flung into the air by waves, it doesn’t lose direction.
USAFE is the invention of Noras Performance, a Portuguese company whose mission is to “Find solutions to real problems by creating useful and valuable products that combine creativity and innovation with the latest technologies.”
Planned future products include a USAFE with a seat for recreational purposes, a device for surveillance, and a life-ring that is connected to a GPS device that a crew member takes with them and will be able to travel autonomously to their location.
Saving lives in the water is not a competition
While it may seem that these products would be in competition with each other due to the nature of life-saving, they know it would be counter-intuitive. Both serve a different target audience, with EMILY more apt for tough conditions, the coastguard, and large vessels. USAFE is arguably better for sailboats and beach lifeguards who can quickly throw the device in and save someone. Both are an economic alternative to sending a lifeboat.