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The idyllic coastal town of Port Macquarie is about to experience a technological revolution after the establishment of a new academy to train new UAV pilots was formally announced on Tuesday.

Over the last 18 months, Surf Life Saving NSW has supported trials of a range of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) by the Little Ripper Group © with a view to evaluating their effectiveness as a lifesaving tool.

The potential of the Westpac Little Ripper and the smaller Mini Ripper is enormous with possible applications such as shark spotting and being able to drop rescue equipment or survival gear to swimmers in distress.

It is constantly evolving technology and the first graduating class of pilots and operators have now completed their training. Six volunteer surf lifesavers and six professional lifeguards are now qualified with the new training school set to boost that number in future.

The academy will operate out of the Surf Life Saving NSW Northern Operations Centre in Port Macquarie and will provide professional training to selected candidates. One aspiration of the program is for it to eventually complement a high school course that is currently being trialled on the Gold Coast which introduces students to the science of UAVs.

The UAV pilot training program may also open doors to those who have restricted movement, allowing them to work alongside surf lifesavers but also gain qualifications that can give people living with disability opportunities for employment in the industry.

“To think that we can offer people living with disability, for instance in a wheelchair, the opportunity to operate Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver equipment and save a life in the surf is incredible,” said Surf Life Saving NSW President David Murray.

“This would set a precedent and be a world-first I’m sure. We are proud that Surf Life Saving is at the forefront of testing, training and deploying this amazing technology,” he said.


Wednesday 1 March 2017