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New Buzz Around Drones

Two rescue giants are revolutionising the way lives are saved in city waters. Surf Life Saving Queensland today announced it is joining forces with hi-tech drone search and rescue company The Ripper Group in a move it believes will revolutionise the way lives are saved in marine environments around the world. 

Gold Coast Bulletin

Kyle Wisniewski

May 8, 2021

Two rescue giants are revolutionising the way lives are saved in city waters.

Surf Life Saving Queensland today announced it is joining forces with hi-tech drone search and rescue company The Ripper Group in a move it believes will revolutionise the way lives are saved in marine environments around the world. 

SLSQ’s investment in the rebranded Ripper Corporation will contribute significantly to the organisation’s vision of zero preventable drowning deaths in the state’s public waters. 

Capitalising on The Ripper Group’s standing as world market leaders in drone search and rescue deployment, training, research and development, SLSQ aims to integrate its state-of-the-art drone and hi- tech AI applications into existing surf lifesaving operations and wider disaster responses. 

Ripper Corp’s board will be chaired by lawyer and SLSQ director Grant Dearlove, alongside directors Kevin Weldon AM – founder and executive chairman of The Ripper Group – Dave Whimpey (SLSQ CEO) and Susan Calvert (The Ripper Group). 

The Ripper Group’s former COO Jason Young has been appointed CEO of Ripper Corp. Beyond the movement’s first commercial partnership’s potential to “dramatically” reduce drowning deaths lay the prospect of re-investing profits in SLSQ, said Dearlove. “Drones are a phenomenal way of achieving our mission to save lives,” he said. 

“It made sense that rather than continue to contract with The Ripper Group as a provider, that we invest in the business. 

“They’re the right fit culturally to help us drive changes that will ultimately modernise and transform the organisation.” 

Surf Life Saving Queensland already use Little Ripper drones in their partnership with the Queensland Government SharkSmart drone trial. Since September 2020, pilots have been flying shark-spotting drones at beaches across the Gold Coast (Main Beach and Burleigh Beach), Sunshine Coast (Coolum Beach and Alexandra Headland Beach) and North Stradbroke Island (Main Beach and Cylinder Beach).

In addition to Little Ripper drones patrolling beaches and waterways, Dearlove said he saw the opportunity to make the lifesaving movement more attractive to young people wanting to acquire future-proofed skills, and to enhance responses to natural disasters like fires, landslides and cyclones – in Queensland and beyond. 

Former International Life Saving Federation president Weldon has over seven decades been closely involved in many of the Surf Life Saving movement’s innovations, from rubber duckies to helicopters. 

Drones are the most exciting yet, he says, pointing to the Little Ripper’s recent inclusion in the National Maritime Museum as a significant piece of Australia’s maritime history, after the world-first rescue of two young NSW bodysurfers. 

“It has already fundamentally enhanced the way we patrol and there’s no question it will change the way lives are saved in marine environments in the future,” Weldon says. 

“It’s like rubber duckies – once lifeguards saw them in action there was no going back.” 

“Since Surf Life Saving Queensland began in 1930, more than 145,000 people have returned home to their loved ones, thanks to the efforts of our professional lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers.

Over the past 90 years our organisation has embraced new technology. We started with line and reel and now we are utilising drones. Importantly, throughout these changes, our organisation’s core purpose of keeping people safe on Queensland beaches has remained unchanged.”

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