In China, lifeguards might soon join a growing list of professionals who will be replaced by robots or at least working with them on their jobs.
The Institute of Intelligent Machines under the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced this week that it has launched the country's first unmanned speedboat to save people from drowning.
The speedboat is equipped with cameras and infrared sensors to detect "moving targets" in the water, said Yu Yangdao, who led the craft's development. Once a swimmer crosses the danger line, the speedboat will locate him/her, calculate the risk of drowning, and send a signal to the command center. The rescue team will then be alerted to take action.
Yu said the unmanned lifeguard speedboat marked a breakthrough in China, whose unmanned vessels have been technologically inferior to the ones manufactured in the United Stated and Israel and its use has largely been restricted to environmental surveillance and data collection.
The craft made its debut recently in Hefei City, capital of east China's Anhui Province to monitor swimmers and tourists at the popular Swan Lake, where drownings often occur.
Yu said the speedboat will be used to patrol rivers, reservoirs, lakes, and seas in the future.