Swanky beachclub in Italy to use drones to rescue swimmers

Forte Dei Marmi

Resort in playground of rich and famous wants to introduce unmanned planes to help lifeguards

An upscale beach resort in Tuscany wants to start using a drone to assist lifeguards this summer, saying it could get life jackets to swimmers in trouble more quickly than people could.

Forte dei Marmi has been the getaway of choice for the rich and famous: the powerful Agnelli family spent their summers there for decades and it is where designer Giorgio Armani built his first holiday home in the 1980s. But now the beach town is attracting attention because Roberto Santini, the owner of the exclusive Piero beachclub, wants to introduce an Iranian-designed drone into the skies over his club.

He said it could be used to transport life jackets and communicate with distressed swimmers from the shore.

“We don’t want to replace the traditional lifeguards,” Santini told local newspaper Versilia Today. “They’ve always been indispensable, but we want to give them more support. We are confident that in a couple of months we will be able to use the drones.”

Stefano Russo, of Italdron – which makes drones used for aerial images and data collection – says civilian drones in Italy are mainly used by photographers and surveyors.

“It is a very new topic for people,” he says. “The media is always talking about drones being good for things like delivering pizza. I think it’s possible to use drones for life-guarding, but it’s more like experimentation than real-world usage.”

For now, the concept has the backing of the mayor of Forte dei Marmi, Umberto Buratti, though he also emphasised concerns about safety. “It is necessary that this new application meets all the safety requirements and is run by people who are adequately prepared,” he said. Drones used by unauthorised people would be confiscated, he added.

Forte dei Marmi is not the only beach looking at using drones. Officials near the iconic Bondi beach in Australia are considering to use drones to help detect sharks, according to reports.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome, for The Guardian on Thursday 22nd January 2015 16.57 Europe/London

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