Man overboard rescue drones

Between 2011 and 2018, 92 out of 298 people who fell overboard in EU waters died.[1] Survival chances depend on detection, response method, water temperature, and luck.[2] In the case of cruise ships, detection relies on eyewitness accounts and surveillance cameras, and given their large turning radius, rescue rates are estimated to be down between 14 and 25%.[1,3]

Thermal cameras can detect a person in the water up to 50 meters away.[4] Equipping these to drones that are prepared for fast deployment and programmed with search pattern optimization for a given vessel, can make a significant improvement of the rescue rates.

Drones can be specialized to locate people, signal their location using light, sound, and GPS, and for dropping flotation devices.[4] Drones can even pull people out of the water and bring them back aboard.

When will it become accepted practice that drone rescue systems are responding to "man overboard" alarms?

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[1] EMSA (2019), Annual Overview of Marine Casualties and Incidents 2019
[2] Garay, E. (2017), What Happens When Someone Falls Off a Cruise Ship
[3] Ship-Technology (2018), Setting International Standards for Man Overboard Systems
[4] Satir (2020), Satir UAV 640P
More information:
Spinks, R. (2018) People fall off cruise ships with alarming regularity. Can anything be done to stop it?
Formula Boats (2019), How to Rescue Someone Who Has Fallen off a Boat
Innovair (2019), Smart Boat Rescue System for Detecting Crew in Water
CLIA (2018), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Releases 2019 Cruise Travel Trends and State of the Cruise Industry Outlook Report
Ghosh, S. (2019), Understanding Different Types Of Manoeuvres of a Vessel
Mukherjee, P. (2019), 3 Important Man Overboard Recovery Methods Used At Sea
Satir (2020), Thermal Imaging Search & Rescue (SAR) Application


By Matthew J. Spaniol