Ro­botic res­cue boat to re­place life­guards

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHU LIXIN in He­fei zhulixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

An aquatic ro­bot put into use re­cently in He­fei, An­hui prov­ince, is ex­pected to pro­tect peo­ple from drown­ing and re­place dozens of hu­man life­guards.

The ro­bot, be­lieved to be China’s first un­manned speed­boat, was of­fi­cially launched in Tian’e Lake on July 3 after months of tri­als.

The boat, which is 2.8 me­ters long, is equipped with cam­eras, in­frared sen­sors and acous­tic sen­sors to de­tect “mov­ing tar­gets” in the wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Bao, deputy gen­eral man­ager of An­hui CASHuacheng In­tel­li­gent Tech­nol­ogy, a com­pany af­fil­i­ated with the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences’ He­fei In­sti­tute of Phys­i­cal Science.

“A ra­dio trans­mit­ter built on an is­land in the lake helps the boat di­vide the wa­ter into dif­fer­ent sec­tors,” he said.

When a per­son, of­ten a swim­mer, is get­ting close to the dan­ger line, which is in­vis­i­ble, it will warn him or her of the dan­ger with a loud­speaker.

Once the per­son crosses the dan­ger line, the speed­boat will lo­cate him or her, and go to the per­son in dan­ger while send­ing alerts to the com­mand cen­ter and hu­man life­guards via an app, so that a res­cue team can take ac­tion promptly.

If drown­ing per­son is able to grab the boat, it will bring the per­son to safety, Zhang said.

Tian’e Lake was opened to the pub­lic in 2004.

“At least 66 peo­ple have drowned,” said Wang Xu, an of­fi­cial with the lo­cal wa­ter po­lice. “Fif­teen of those died in 2016.”

“Most of the vic­tims were swim­mers. Oth­ers com­mit­ted sui­cide,” he added.

No drown­ings have been re­ported since the com­pany put a trial boat in the lake in Novem­ber, ac­cord­ing to Zhang.

Although the lake is only about 1.5 kilo­me­ters from east to west and 800 me­ters north to south, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have em­ployed about 110 life­guards work­ing in four shifts a day, to pa­trol the lake.

“In the fu­ture, most of the life­guards will be re­placed by the ro­bot,” Zhang said. “The boat, pow­ered by a bat­tery, can be used to pa­trol rivers, reser­voirs, lakes and seas — not only for se­cu­rity pur­poses but also for en­vi­ron­men­tal sur­veil­lance and data col­lec­tion.”

YU JUNJIE / FOR CHINA DAILY

An un­manned res­cue speed­boat pa­trols Tian’e Lake in He­fei, An­hui prov­ince, ear­lier this month.

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