Surf Life Saving Queensland today announced it is joining forces with hi-tech drone search and rescue company The Ripper Group in a move it believes will revolutionise the way lives are saved in marine environments around the world.
SLSQ’s investment in the rebranded Ripper Corporation will contribute significantly to the organisation’s vision of zero preventable drowning deaths in the state’s public waters.
Capitalising on The Ripper Group’s standing as world market leaders in drone search and rescue deployment, training, research and development, SLSQ aims to integrate its state-of-the-art drone and hi- tech AI applications into existing surf lifesaving operations and wider disaster responses.
Ripper Corp’s board will be chaired by lawyer and SLSQ director Grant Dearlove, alongside directors Kevin Weldon AM – founder and executive chairman of The Ripper Group – Dave Whimpey (SLSQ CEO) and Susan Calvert (The Ripper Group).
The Ripper Group’s former COO Jason Young has been appointed CEO of Ripper Corp. Beyond the movement’s first commercial partnership’s potential to “dramatically” reduce drowning deaths lay the prospect of re-investing profits in SLSQ, said Dearlove. “Drones are a phenomenal way of achieving our mission to save lives,” he said.
“It made sense that rather than continue to contract with The Ripper Group as a provider, that we invest in the business.
“They’re the right fit culturally to help us drive changes that will ultimately modernise and transform the organisation.”
Surf Life Saving Queensland already use Little Ripper drones in their partnership with the Queensland Government SharkSmart drone trial. Since September 2020, pilots have been flying shark-spotting drones at beaches across the Gold Coast (Main Beach and Burleigh Beach), Sunshine Coast (Coolum Beach and Alexandra Headland Beach) and North Stradbroke Island (Main Beach and Cylinder Beach).
In addition to Little Ripper drones patrolling beaches and waterways, Dearlove said he saw the opportunity to make the lifesaving movement more attractive to young people wanting to acquire future-proofed skills, and to enhance responses to natural disasters like fires, landslides and cyclones – in Queensland and beyond.
Former International Life Saving Federation president Weldon has over seven decades been closely involved in many of the Surf Life Saving movement’s innovations, from rubber duckies to helicopters.
Drones are the most exciting yet, he says, pointing to the Little Ripper’s recent inclusion in the National Maritime Museum as a significant piece of Australia’s maritime history, after the world-first rescue of two young NSW bodysurfers.
“It has already fundamentally enhanced the way we patrol and there’s no question it will change the way lives are saved in marine environments in the future,” Weldon says.
“It’s like rubber duckies – once lifeguards saw them in action there was no going back.”
“Since Surf Life Saving Queensland began in 1930, more than 145,000 people have returned home to their loved ones, thanks to the efforts of our professional lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers.
Over the past 90 years our organisation has embraced new technology. We started with line and reel and now we are utilising drones. Importantly, throughout these changes, our organisation’s core purpose of keeping people safe on Queensland beaches has remained unchanged.”
- 2016 Little Ripper Lifesaver drones came into being with The Ripper Group, pioneering and testing the technology and working with CASA and other regulatory bodies to implement this cutting edge technology across Australian beaches.
- The Ripper Group is acknowledged as the world’s leading search and rescue drone com-pany, being the first in Australia to implement drone technology to the beaches.
- The Ripper Group developed the unique inflatable pods in the rescue and are responsible for the award-winning Algorithms of SharkSpotter Ai, CrocSpotter Ai and SharkShield which are being used around the world.
- January 2018 – The Ripper Group’s payload technology was responsible for the SOS inflata-ble pod that was used the world’s first marine rescue by a drone at Lennox Head. To date, this technology has only been used by the Little Ripper Lifesaver Drones as part of its Search and Rescue operations.
- August 2018 – The Ripper Group wins 2018 Winner Australian National iAwards for Artificial Intelligence/machine learning of the year with its SharkSpotter Ai developed with technology partner UTS.
- January 2020 – The Ripper Group adapted its beach search and rescue technology to the bush, to assist in the search and rescue of native wildlife injured as a result of the devastating bush fires, using infrared technology.
- February 2020 – Sea Marker dye technology is released as a new payload developed by The Ripper Group for small mavic drones to be used daily by lifesaving groups. Sea marker dye had been utilised in actual search and recovery missions with SLSQ and Water Police on the Little Rippers (M600) since 2017.
- March 2020 – The Ripper Group and technology partner UTS win AAUS(Australian Associa-tion for Unmanned Systems) Innovation Award.
- November 2020 saw ‘the’ history making Little Ripper Lifesaver drone inducted into the National Maritime Museum as playing a significant part in Australia’s Maritime history.
- May 2021 – The Ripper Group merges with SLSQ to establish The Ripper Corporation.