He watched as two off-duty lifeguards battled the waves to reach the struggling casualty, but the height of the waves and speed of the water made it difficult to reach them quickly.
Dominic says at one point the teen was without a flotation aid for around 35 seconds and, though thankfully the rescue mission was successful, he was left thinking “why can’t we just fly something over the waves and drop a flotation device with the casualty?”.
The Product Design and Technology student decided to explore the idea for his final year project and found using drones for this scenario had been prototyped.
However, the drones used were large, commercial drones and carried big, bulky rescue equipment – meaning they couldn’t be easily loaded onto the back of a rescue quad bike or a car, and certainly not transported on foot.
Dominic, who held a National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) for six years, wanted to design a smaller and more portable system that could be deployed much faster – even by emergency personnel without specialist lifeguard training – as time is of the essence when someone in the water is in danger.
As part of his final year project, Dominic has designed ‘SERVITA’ – a small, compact drone that flies above hazardous waters to locate individuals in distress and deploys a buoyancy aid that automatically inflates when hitting the water, helping casualties stay afloat while they wait for a rescue team to reach them.