Westpac announced a sponsorship to trial autonomous, long-range Little Ripper Lifesaver© Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for search and rescue.

Meet Little Ripper, a modified version of a military drone: flight time of two and a half hours, range of 60 miles, and a range of daytime and infrared cameras. It's a part of new Australia government's "shark strategy" - $250,000 drones will soon be patrolling the shores of New South Wales to spot the dangerous fish. HIGH-TECH drones was developed by Kevin Weldon, Australia's first astronaut and a philanthropist whose friend was killed by a shark.

"As Australians, we love the outdoors, and I commend Little Ripper and Westpac for conducting this innovative trial. This technology has the potential to improve the way our emergency services respond when people find themselves in trouble. We're investing in unmanned and increased aerial surveillance as part of our $16 million shark strategy and I look forward to the outcomes of this trial," said Mike Baird, The NSW Premier.

Little Ripper will be tested with an eye to spotting — and helping — anyone in an emergency situation. It will be equipped with different "pods" tailor-made for aid in the sea, snow and on land which can be dropped to people in distress.

"This is innovation at its best that will lead to a safer Australia. For over 40 years, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service has been a crucial community service in Australia, and we believe the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver technology has the potential to help save even more lives," said Brian Hartzer, Westpac Chief Executive Officer.

There were a record 98 unprovoked shark attacks in 2015 worldwide, according to the latest figures from the International Shark Attack File based at the University of Florida. The Rippers have the potential to change how Australia protects its people from shark attacks.

March 1, 2016 Living photo: Westpac

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