As the old saying goes, ‘a tool is but the extension of a human’s hand’. The same can be said for drones. They reach places humans cannot reach, collect and analyse information better than the naked eye, all with an incomparable degree of detail and precision. These exhilarating advantages have substantiated their place in search and rescue efforts across the globe.
However, drone technology is concurrently placed under the microscope for its effectiveness in saving lives.
A main bottleneck faced by drones users is the limited access to information in real time, especially in large-scale missions with multiple drones in operation. Drones are excellent at what they are designed to do, which is partially to collect and analyse data, but how that data is relaid to key decision makers is a whole different matter.
This is where drone fleet management platforms come in. A good platform is able to take drone capabilities to new heights, whilst bringing out the best awareness, coordination and leadership in the people operating them.
The challenge: Better coordination required for life-saving missions
Beach patrol is critical to ensuring the overall safety of beaches. Especially in the water, beachgoers are prone to a multitude of threats, such as rip currents, the risk of drowning, marine stingers and larger marine predators. The greater the threat or the further away a distressed swimmer is from land, the more challenging it is for lifeguards to issue a timely rescue. Coupled with external distractions on the beach such as excessive noise, glare and heat, this necessitates absolute vigilance, efficiency and flawless coordination in rescue efforts.
Ripper Corporation (Ripper Corp) is a leading drone and technology company with a special focus on beach search and rescue programs. Since joining forces with Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ), Ripper Corp’s state-of-the-art drones and hi-tech AI applications have been used to scan beaches, spot potential risks and issue rescue plans on the Queensland coasts.
‘Drones…reach places humans cannot reach and analyse information better than the naked eye’
As experiences accumulated, Ripper Corp began to notice there was a need for greater transparency between the ground pilots who flew the drones and SLSQ’s control centre team. When a pilot noticed a swimmer at risk, they would radio the lifeguard first. The lifeguard would then radio the control centre, prompting the control centre to make a decision on the steps to be taken. During this process, the control centre had neither visibility of the drones nor direct communication with the pilots. This greatly hampered coordination among different parties in emergency situations.
This predicament was most prominent over the course of 2020 and 2021, when domestic visitors flocked to Queensland beaches due to COVID-19 travel and border restrictions, ramping up the number of beach incidents.
The solution: Cloud Ground Control – a cloud-based command and control platform with multiple features
Ripper Corp needed an all-in-one solution that eliminated communication barriers whilst providing excellent interoperability and scalability for their extensive fleet. Cloud Ground Control was ultimately selected for its ease of use and unique capability to achieve multi-user, multi-drone operation over cellular networks. Encompassing real-time video feed and telemetry, end-to-end encryption, built-in compliance and cloud storage into a cloud-based platform, Cloud Ground Control enables pilots and mission commanders to connect, monitor and control any drone from a web browser, from anywhere in the world.
The result: Successful outcomes across all areas, making life-saving easier
The team at Ripper Corp found that Cloud Ground Control not only ticked all the boxes of a reliable, easy-to-use drone fleet management platform, but also delivered true flexibility that elevated business operation. This was manifested in several tangible outcomes, including:
- Enhanced situational awareness: mission commanders were able to access real-time telemetry, video and payload data that were streamed simultaneously from one or multiple drones. They could switch from flyer view to live view in a single click, and even control the cameras by adjusting their angles or zooming in and out. This resulted in a significant step-up in transparency and visibility over the beach.
- Better responsiveness and tighter coordination: having access to real-time video data allowed mission commanders to plan an action quickly and accurately. For instance, when a swimmer is caught in a rip current, the commander is able to arrange a drone to fly over and drop down a certified floating device for the swimmer to swim to safety, in as little as a minute and a half.
‘Cloud Ground Control has allowed us to gain better insights of what is happening on our beaches so our teams can make more informed decisions in emergencies’
Jason Young, CEO, Ripper Corporation
- Optimised scalability: Cloud Ground Control operates over 4G/5G networks as opposed to traditional radio. This meant there was no limitation on the physical range. The mission commander could simply sit behind their desk, and view and control drones from any command centre. Cloud Ground Control was able to assist Ripper Corp in a world-first to simultaneously fly multiple drones along a 1,000 km stretch of Australia’s coastlines.
- Streamlined execution: Cloud Ground Control is vehicle and sensor-agnostic, meaning it is compatible with a diverse range of drones and robotic sensors. Ripper Corp’s fleet consisted of various specialised uncrewed vehicles and drones with different operating systems. By connecting them to Cloud Ground Control, they were able to streamline operations without worrying about interoperability issues, such as delays and collisions during operations.
- Safeguarded reputation: with an established reputation in drone technology, Ripper Corp was able to compound their operational success and credibility with the added value of Cloud Ground Control. As efficient, timely rescues were carried out with much more ease, Ripper Corp continued maintaining a safe beach environment with greater composure and confidence.