Line carrying drone launched for sea rescues

Credit: Gannet

A drone manufactured by the South African company Gannet has been adapted to carry line out to sea for rescue work. The company developed release system, originally developed for a form of drone fishing, will enable it to take a line out from a beach to a swimmer or surfer in trouble. It also has the potential for transferring lines out at sea from ships.

Gannet has developed its own line of drones that make use of a unique waterproofing system. Both the Gannet Pro and Gannet Pro+ utilise a flexible internal flight ‘bladder’ to combat the challenges presented by existing waterproofing systems. The system uses a short tube connected to a shielded opening on the outside of the drone body, allowing any heat generated by the drone to be ventilated during flight.

A spokesperson from Gannet said, “This unique and patent-pending design ensures that the electronics will never see the external environment, be it humid air, rain, snow, salt spray, or ocean water. The electronics stay dry at all times and with perfectly balanced barometric pressure, this ensures stable flight without uncontrollable altitude gain as is the case with all other waterproof drones.”

The payload delivery version of the drone is designed for fishing and search-and-rescue applications and can carry payloads of up to 3.5 kg thanks to the company’s X-Sport release system. The release system allows operators to set an automated tension release weight to prevent the line from getting caught and the drone being damaged or lost. If the weight on the line exceeds the predetermined maximum tension weight, the line will unclip, which will prevent the drone from crashing.

The payload possibilities are adequate to carry a light line up to 300 m away, which enables a line fitted with a handle to be dropped close to a casualty in the surf. The handheld drone controller is designed for operation on an open beach.

The same system could provide a viable connection for use by tugs to transfer a tow line, first sending across the light line that can then be used to transfer heavier line and the tow line. This would avoid the two vessels having to make close contact in heavy weather. The system could also be used when ships are required to go to the assistance of small vessels in the open ocean. Trying to come alongside a small immobilised casualty can be a real challenge for a large ship but by sending a line across by drone the casualty could then be pulled alongside. The same system could be used to rescue survivors from life rafts.

The versatility offered by using drones to transfer lines could be exploited in a variety of ways in sea and rescue work and could avoid having to put the rescuer at possible risk during the operation. The system could also replace the rocket lines that are currently used in many situations with all their attendant risks.

The Gannet Pro drone was launched in the summer of 2019 and demonstrations of its search and rescue capabilities are currently under way.