Lifeguard duty is the latest application for radio-control systems and the combination of modern high-powered electric motors and Li-Ion batteries. An Arizona-based company called Hydronalix has created a robotic flotation device to deploy to reach swimmers in distress when a lifeguard can't get there soon enough. The robot is called EMILY, which is an acronym for Emergency Integrated Life-saving Lanyard. EMILY weighs 25 pounds, can go up to 25 miles per hour and can be used as a flotation device for up to six people. Its batteries will run the device for about 15-20 minutes.
The Hydronalix website does not have much information on it, but their About Us page states, "Engineering and Design of high speed unattended devices for littoral and brown water operations." Merriam-Webster dictionary defines of those two key words thusly -
littoral: of, relating to, or situated on the shore of the sea or a lake
brown water: an inland or coastal waterway esp. when murky or colored brown by silt, tannins, or pollutants
The Hydronalix Facebook page has a few photos and a some information on the operational testing. EMILY can be dropped from helicopters or launched from a shoreline, a pier, or watercraft. It has the ability to quickly get into hazardous areas where human rescuers would typically take much longer to safely reach. Although not addressed on the website, EMILY might also have an application in rescuing people who have fallen through ice.
With a price tag of $10,000, EMILY does not come cheaply. Early models on special-purpose items like this are usually expensive because of low volume production and the need to absorb the cost of development and certification. Liability insurance is probably also a big part of the price as well. After all, no person or company, regardless of the good intentions, is safe from the wiles of money-grubbing lawyers who will exploit any situation.
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