Boating Safety and Safe Boating Blog

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

by Alex Czartoryski

EMILY The Robot Lifeguard

If R2-D2 spent more time in Malibu, a certain lifeguard might catch his eye—one wearing a durable red canvas bathing suit.

Robot lifeguard "swims" 15 times faster than human colleagues

EMILY, or the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving LanYard, is a 4.5-foot long robotic buoy with a foam core, red canvas cover, and an operating speed of up to 24 mph/40 kph—or about 15 times the speed of a human lifeguard.

Designed by Arizona-based Hydronalix Inc., EMILY is powered by a miniature propulsion engine much like a Jet Ski and can be driven remotely with a handheld controller. The newest versions of the robot can reportedly also be controlled using a tablet or phone running the Google Android OS.

When a lifeguard spots trouble in the water, he or she simply tosses EMILY into the surf and steers her quickly to the struggling swimmer or swimmers. Indeed, perhaps EMILY’s greatest strength—other than her speed in both smooth and choppy water—is her 80 pounds of buoyancy, which is enough to keep 4-5 adults afloat. With the swimmers holding onto EMILY, lifeguards can then swim out to complete the rescue.


EMILY can be equipped with speakers, so that lifeguards can calm swimmers from shore—and future versions of the robot will come with sensors to listen for underwater distress. Her battery life is enough for almost 10 hours of patrol at 5 mph or 35 minutes at top speed.

Used as a tool with other regular lifeguarding practices, EMILY should offer lifeguards a way to save precious seconds (even minutes) in reaching a swimmer in distress. And that may mean lives saved. No wonder EMILY was named one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2010 by Time Magazine.

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