A University of Queensland business graduate has developed a remote-controlled life raft to assist in surf and water rescues.
Named SARGO (Search and Rescue GO), the device is designed to be dropped from aircraft and then steered towards those in distress.
Joe Bryant, founder and director of Aeromech, is responsible for the design and construction of the drone.
Bryant said that drone technology has the potential to save many lives across Australia and the world.
“Over the last year, the Australian Marine Safety Authority (AMSA) has responded to 390 incidents and saved over 199 lives – a statistic we hope to support with the use of SARGO,” said Bryant.
The development of SARGO began in 2019 when Bryant responded to an expression of interest from AMSA to develop a drone that could withstand being dropped from a search and rescue aircraft and then operate remotely once landing in water.
Bryant leveraged his experience in the field of advanced composites, including a 13-year stint at Airbus, to design SARGO. Aside from his technical experience, Byrant also completed an MBA at the University of Queensland, which spurred him on to create his own company, Aeromech, to facilitate the development and construction of SARGO
“SARGO has been designed to be dropped from Marine Search and Rescue and Coast Guard aircraft and land safely on top of the ocean’s surface using a parachute,” said Bryant.
“It can then be operated remotely to transport life-saving cargo to a stricken vessel or help rescue survivors stranded in the water.”
Bryant also emphasised the innovative nature of the device, saying that it filled a niche that currently wasn’t being met.
“Existing technology doesn’t allow for a device to be dropped from a search and rescue aircraft using a parachute, carry a lifesaving package onboard, and then remotely navigate to the people in need at the same range that SARGO can.
“That’s what makes SARGO a very exciting development for rescue services.”
SARGO is already attracting interest from industry figures, with Sean Langman, CEO of vessel maintenance company Noakes Group, praising the design.
“We believe SARGOTM has the potential to change the way we address search and rescue operations, both domestically and internationally,” he said.
“SARGO is a product that can fill the gap that currently exists within the search and rescue market.”
Aeromech is set to begin manufacturing the SARGO drones at its facility based in southeast Queensland in 2023.