The Warrnambool Coast Guard is leading the way when it comes to rescues.
The unit has purchased its first drone and pilots David Francis and Keith Prest are learning how to use it in marine rescues.
The two are being helped by Victorian UAS drone training company chief executive officer Mathew Herbert.
Warrnambool Coast Guard commander Allan Wood said it was an exciting time for the unit. "We believe this is the first utilisation of a drone for marine search and rescue in Australia," Mr Wood said.
Mr Prest said the drone would be a valuable tool for searching areas close to the shore, which were often difficult or impossible to reach for the unit flotilla.
"There are a lot of areas along the coast here that we can't get to," he said. "During our time in coast guard we've had quite a few instances where people are in close and you're not even sure where they are.
"The helicopter does a brilliant job when it's available but with light and weather conditions sometimes they can't get in anyway."
Mr Prest said the drone was waterproof and could take up to two kilograms in weight, which would allow unit members to drop a life jacket or flotation device to someone in trouble.
Mr Francis said the drone would also be extremely useful during open water searches. He said coast guard members were limited in the distance they could see from the flotilla and they could use the drone to scan water alongside them. "We could be running a dual search and using footage from the drone to cover a wider band," Mr Francis said.
"It's really exciting to be able to add this to the tool kit."
Mr Wood said the drone would help dramatically reduce search times and provide vastly superior visibility.
"The drone is capable of being programmed to do a search pattern from our boat and it runs automatically until the pattern is complete," he said.
Mr Wood said the unit had purchased a drone for training and had an Emergency Management Victoria grant to purchase another one down the track.
"We are going through an evaluation process with our first drone, then we shall make a final selection mid year," he said. "We hope to be able to make this capability available to other emergency services organisations as our expertise develops."
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