The most dangerous aspect of a water rescue for first responders isn’t the treacherous environmental conditions, it’s the terrified and panicked victim capable of pulling their rescuer under the waves along with them. Rather than risk national treasures like David Hasselhoff, the U-Safe self-propelled buoy from Portugal’s Noras Performance will brave the waves in their stead.
The U-Safe is an aquatic robot designed to drive out to a swimmer in distress using a pair of turbines mounted in its “legs.” The turbines are omnidirectional and operate regardless of the U-Safe’s orientation in the water. It can reach a top speed of 15km/h and range out to 3.2 nautical miles so long as the first responders can maintain a line of sight. The entire unit weighs just over 30 pounds with induction-charged lithium-ion battery providing power.
It’s controlled using a one-handed bluetooth remote, itself both buyant and waterproof so there’s little risk of a rescue going sideways because you’ve dropped the control unit overboard. First introduced in 2017, and since adopted by both the Italian and Portuguese coast guards, the U-Safe is being readied for US release later this year.