THE first 12 lifesaver drone pilots trained by the new state-of- the-art drone pilot training school in Port Macquarie were welcomed at a ceremony on February 28.
The Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaving Unmanned Aerial Training School is Australia’s first training school for people to operate drones.
The drones will be used to patrol beaches up and down the coast, enabling lifesavers to deliver help to people in the water, to spot sharks and even deliver messages to people who may be heading into dangerous waters.
The academy’s first woman to qualify to be a drone lifesaver pilot, Toni Hurkett of Port Macquarie, said it was an amazing feeling.
“The training was a little bit challenging but it was a great opportunity,” the Port Macquarie surf life saving club member said.
“When I first heard about it, I wanted to get involved straight away. Learning to fly them was difficult in a sense that it was like nothing I’d ever done before.
“We picked it up relatively quickly and by the end of the four day course I was had the hang of it.”
She said the way it will improve lifesaving is “phenomenal”.
“We will still use all of our original methods, but this will help us to do our job by providing a higher level of life saving,” she said.
Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams, said the NSW Government is committed to working in conjunction with Surf Life Saving NSW and Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter.
“The Government has allocated $11 million over three years to fund water safety projects to reduce the incidence of drowning across the State, which includes $4 million for Surf Life Saving NSW to enhance their rescue capabilities,” she said.
“New technology such as the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver may present safer ways for our lifesavers to patrol the coast.
“This is an exciting concept for our area which will see people trained to operate drones specifically to assist in the saving of lives.
The training school is located in the purpose-built Surf Live Saving NSW administration building in Central Road in Port Macquarie.