Robotic Lifeguard Uses Sonar to Sense Swimmers in Distress

EMILY, which stands somewhat awkwardly for EMergency Integrated Lifesaving lanYard, is a new robotic lifeguard that could help save lives at our nation’s beaches. It’s a four-foot-long motorized buoy in appearance, but there’s a lot more under the hood.

Says PopSci, EMILY is equipped with an electric motor somewhat similar to that of a Jet-Ski, which gives the buoy enough power to move at 28mph through even difficult waters–about six times faster than a human lifeguard. It’s got some serious tech under the hood as well. EMILY uses sonar to sense the motions of a swimmer in distress (I assume “panicked flailing” is a distinctive motion in the water), working as a guide to find anyone in need of help.

At the moment, it has a camera and speakers: A lifeguard stays on shore, guiding the ‘bot through the waters by using the camera. The speakers are for reassuring or issuing instructions to the person being rescued. But an autonomous version, which would rely on the sonar, will go on sale next spring for a surprisingly reasonable $3,500.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).DN