Summer brings a higher risk of shark bites and drownings. Lifeguards do their part but what if they had drones to assist them? A central Florida professor says drones will help make beach outings safer in the future. Drones can fly over pretty far areas, and at high and low altitudes. That's why John Robbins says they hold great potential for public safety at the beach. Robbins researches unmanned aircraft systems at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "With camera technologies or different types of sensors that are able to pick out things, discriminate things on the ground, like a swimmer that's in distress or say you were picking out a shadow for a shark, something like that," said Robbins. One thing keeping beach safety officials from using drones to scout for sharks right now is federal regulations. They're still evolving when it comes to the drone industry. Robbins is waiting for rules to come out -possibly in the next couple of months. He said regulators have to look at how drones can fly safely alongside manned aircraft such as helicopters flying near crowded beaches. Researchers are also looking at how drones can benefit other industries such as agriculture and real estate.
With summer here, safety officials in Florida are urging beach-goers to stay safe in the water. After a near-drowning incident recently, one Dothan man saw the dangers high waves can bring, first-hand. It's a moment retired Dothan Police Officer, Keith Gray, won't soon forget. "I saw a group of people and I ran as fast as I could without thinking. I jumped in the water and swam to where they were, and there was this unconscious female face up. They were holding her above the water, but you could clearly see there was no life in her body," said Keith Gray, Dothan resident.Gray and another man performed CPR on the 14 year old Texas girl before EMS officials arrived. "Thank God she came back," said Gray. What is unfortunate is that drownings are a recurring problem. Why? We have so many people that come into our area and they are not familiar with their swimming ability or the flag system and how to read it. With only four rescuers on duty this summer, Carol Wagner, Beach and Surf Patrol Supervisor in Panama City Beach, says it can get overwhelming with the large amount of tourists in one area at one time. She urges vacationers to not only take a look at the flag colors, but also learn their meanings before even coming to the beach. Flags range from green to double red. Green, being the best conditions. While double red means the water is closed to the public. Wagner also says it's important to know your own swimming ability before getting in the water.