Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to prevent drowning

Resuscitation. 2018 Jun;127:63-67. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2018.04.005. Epub 2018 Apr 10.


Background: Drowning literature have highlighted the submersion time as the most powerful predictor in assessing the prognosis. Reducing the time taken to provide a flotation device and prevent submersion appears of paramount importance. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can provide the location of the swimmer and a flotation device.

Objective: The objective of this simulation study was to evaluate the efficiency of a UAV in providing a flotation device in different sea conditions, and to compare the times taken by rescue operations with and without a UAV (standard vs UAV intervention). Several comparisons were made using professional lifeguards acting as simulated victims. A specifically-shaped UAV was used to allow us to drop an inflatable life buoy into the water.

Results: During the summer of 2017, 28 tests were performed. UAV use was associated with a reduction of time it took to provide a flotation device to the simulated victim compared with standard rescue operations (p < 0.001 for all measurements) and the time was reduced even further in moderate (81 ± 39 vs 179 ± 78 s; p < 0.001) and rough sea conditions (99 ± 34 vs 198 ± 130 s; p < 0.001). The times taken for UAV to locate the simulated victim, identify them and drop the life buoy were not altered by the weather conditions.

Conclusion: UAV can deliver a flotation device to a swimmer safely and quickly. The addition of a UAV in rescue operations could improve the quality and speed of first aid while keeping lifeguards away from dangerous sea conditions.

Keywords: Drone; Drowning; Lifeguards; Rescue; Simulation; Unmanned aerial vehicles.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft / instrumentation*
  • Drowning / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Patient Simulation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rescue Work / methods*
  • Time Factors