Trial of self-propelled, remote-controlled life buoy launched at Sylvania

A self-propelled, remote controlled life buoy will be trialled in hazardous rescues by Marine Rescue NSW Port Hacking and other units.

The three-month trial was announced at Sylvania on Thursday by Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott.

The patented U SAFE device has been produced by Portuguese developer Noras Performance. It features a U-shaped hull, powered through the water by an electric turbine in each leg.

It can travel up to 400 metres from the operator at a speed of up to 15km/h.

Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Stacey Tannos said the aquatic robot would be trialed by volunteer crews at selected rescue units along the coastline to test its performance in a variety of hazardous conditions.

"We're thrilled to undertake the first operational trial of the U SAFE prototype by a professional rescue service in Australia," Mr Tannos said.

The trial will test the technology's speed, accuracy, and success in scenarios such as:

  • Dangerous conditions and in accessible locations, such as choppy coastal bars, rocky outcrops and shallow waterways that are difficult for vessels to navigate.
  • Reaching people who have fallen overboard from boats or rock fishers who have been churned in the surf close to rock platforms or cliffs.
  • Carrying a tow rope to a boat in severe conditions like extreme chops or heavy swells.

Mr Elliott said the innovative technology was the future of marine rescue and would put crews in a position to save more lives in a range of hazardous conditions.

"This is an incredible piece of kit that can launched from a rescue vessel or from the shore and steered directly to a person or boat in danger," he said.

Miranda MP Eleni Petinos said the trial demonstrated the state government's "commitment to reducing tragic and, too often, preventable drownings".

Ms Petinos said Marine Rescue NSW volunteers did "an extraordinary job keeping the community safe" and the government was backing them up with a record $37.6 over four years to enhance their rescue capability with additional rescue vehicles, volunteer facilities and radio infrastructure.