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Rutgers Researchers Working With Lifeguards On Rescue Drone

BELMAR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- New life-saving technology could be coming to a beach near you.

Lifeguards on the Jersey Shore are testing the waters on the use of rescue drones, CBS2's Meg Baker reported Thursday.

High above Belmar's beach soars a new tool. The high-tech device is an additional option during an emergency, providing flotation and communication.

"That could potentially buy lifeguards additional time, but it in no way removes the lifeguard from life-saving equation," lifeguard Eric Kerecman said.

Belmar partnered with Rutgers University to test and tweak how the drone-assisted rescue operation would work.

"We found the drone can get out to a person about one minute faster than, say, if a lifeguard is having to battle a heavy surf," said Hugh Roarty, the project manager at Rutgers' Center for Ocean Observing Leadership.

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In the future, a lifeguard could send the drone out carrying an inflatable vest. Once it reaches the swimmer, the vest would be dropped. Roarty said practice will help with accuracy.

"Flotation weighs about 1 pound," Roarty said.

"I think it's cutting-edge technology that can be used even during off hours," Kerecman added.

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Beach goers seem intrigued by the idea.

"Great idea. See things from aerial view maybe something lifeguard can't see from his," Sabino Cuscio said.

They are also testing out the possibility of making the drone a walkie-talkie, so lifeguards can communicate with victims out in the water. Often a distressed swimmer panics, so a reassuring voice saying help is on the way could buy more time.

Lifeguards say the drone can also be used to monitor ocean conditions, including rip currents.

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