Don’t be surprised if the lifeguards at Chennai’s Marina beach plunging into the sea to rescue drowning swimmers or fishermen are not humans.
National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, has now developed a low-cost robotic lifesaver that that can act in search-and-rescue situations faster than three lifeguards put together!
Christened as the ‘robo coastal observer’ (RCO), this life-saving innovation can be operated from the shore with the assistance of a remote control.
Speaking to The Times of India, Head of Ocean Observation Systems, R Venkatesan, revealed how the device was primarily developed for scientific applications like studying the surf zone and collecting real-time ocean parameters like temperature, salinity and depth.
That is one of the reasons the device is called a coastal observer and not a lifesaver, he adds.
What is Robo Coastal Observer?
It is a simple device that looks like a swimming pool float.
It is equipped with a waterproof box containing the microcontroller, electrical thrusters, transmitter and sensors.
The control unit is equipped with a GPS module for position indication, a flashlight for low light conditions and a camera for visual surveillance.
How does it work?
Once flung into the sea, the RCO withstands rough waves and can be moved at a rapid speed of five knots up to four kilometres by firing its electrical thrusters.
Its battery life is about five hours.
There is also an alternative to switching the RCO on to autopilot by just entering the coordinates of the location to be reached.
How will it save a drowning person?
Say for example a person is drowning, he/she can simply cling onto the circular float of the RCO or just wear it.
The person operating the RCO from the coast can then bring the device back, thus rescuing them.
This device was extensively tested at the Marina beach by the officers of the Coastal Security Group of Tamil Nadu.
The technology has now been transferred by NIOT to Bengaluru-based CT Control Technology through the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), on a non-exclusive basis for large-scale commercial production.
“The device is basically for rescue purposes. We want the industry to produce it so that it can be beneficial to the common man,” NIOT director Dr M.A.Atmanand told TOI.
Additional Director General of Police, Railways, C Sylendra Babu, who took the device along with his team and swam from the International Maritime Border Line to Arichamunai in the Palk Straits in March said, “You need at least three people to rescue a person struggling in the sea and bring them back to shore, because in most cases the waves are so rough that a single rescuer would find it difficult to reach the individual in distress. This device can be manoeuvred to the person in no time.”
We hope that while the RCO production is scaled up, the price remains affordable to commoners. Further, this innovation can go a long way in helping curb the rising drowning deaths at Marina beach and across the state in times of adversities.