The unmanned aircraft are equipped with rubber floats to drop into the water and can reach drowning swimmers three times faster than their human equivalents.
The pioneering intiative being tested at five resorts across Spain this week is sponsored by Vodafone One and is designed to reduce the estimated 400 drownings that occur off Spanish beaches each year.
The drones, which are equipped with cameras and are operated from the shore, could save vital minutes in coming to the aid of those in distress.
“As soon as there is a sighting of someone in difficulty in the water, both the drone and the lifeguard will head towards the sea. Arriving first the drone will deliver a lifesaving ring buying valuable time for the lifeguard to reach the swimmer in distress and save a life,” a spokesman from the project told The Local.
“It shows how such technology can save lives; a lifeguard takes triple the time as a drone to reach a swimmer in distress.”
The drones are currently being operated at beaches in Marbella, Cartagena and Benalmádena in southern Spain and at Ribadesella in Asturias and Isla in Cantabria on Spain’s northern coast.
A lifeguard drone with its operator on the beach in Marbella. Photo: MECglobal.com