China Unveils Self-Driving Patrol Boats To Save People From Drowning

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Robotic speedboats now ply the waters of a large lake in China, which has seen multiple deaths from drowning over the years. The autonomous watercraft is equipped with GPS, cameras, and acoustic and infrared sensors.
It’s aiding lifeguards at the Tian’e Lake in Hefei, eastern China, which receives tens of thousands of people each day during peak periods, according to park officials.
The boat is designed to detect moving targets in a lake that has seen 15 people drown in 2016. Sixty-six people drowned in total since the park along the lake was first inaugurated in 2004.
It’s part of a system of around 20 optical and infrared sensors built along the shore and a radio transmitter, which divides the 172-acre (70 hectare) lake into safe and dangerous sectors.
The boat will alert swimmers who stray into danger zones to stay away, and transmit the swimmer’s location to the lake’s management. Swimmers who can grab hold of the boat could be brought to safety. .
Aside from the boat, lifeguards in Tian’e Lake are also equipped with three drones, which can send life preservers, food and medical supplies to people in distress.
No one has drowned since the boat’s trial first kicked off in November last year, according to Zhang Bao, deputy general manager at Anhui CAS-Huacheng Intelligent Technology, a company which helped develop the autonomous boat. The boat is expected to ease the burden of some 33 lifeguards stationed at the lake, say local papers.
The country is currently building a testbed for autonomous boats in the Pearl River Delta, and has developed unmanned military patrol boats and armoured personnel carriers. But so far, these developments have been made for the military.

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