Robotic boat sets sail to save lives on one of China’s deadliest lakes

Hi-tech vessel pinpoints potential victims by analysing data from cameras dotted around Swan Lake

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 July, 2017, 1:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 6:05pm

A robotic boat designed to save people from drowning in one of China’s deadliest lakes has gone into service, Xinhua reported on Sunday.

The unmanned vessel works by analysing data from more than 20 optical and infrared cameras positioned around Swan Lake in Hefei, capital of southeastern China’s Anhui province. These monitor the water surface and in the event of someone getting into trouble can alert the boat to the person’s whereabouts.

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A computer on board the vessel then calculates the quickest route and goes to the rescue, the report said.

Speaking at a launch event last week, Wang Xu, head of Hefei’s water police department, told China National Radio that the boat had been introduced in a bid to reduce the number of drownings at the man-made lake.

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According to local media, 15 people lost their lives at Swan Lake last year, including six in a single month, while an average of eight people a year have died there over the past decade.

While the boat is unable to carry passengers, once it gets to the person in distress they can use it as a buoyancy aid until a manned vessel arrives, Wang said.

Its hi-tech equipment enables it to reach people in the shortest possible time – without colliding with other vessels on the water – and means it can operate in all weather conditions day or night, he said.

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Both the boat and its technologies were developed and built by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the country’s top research institute.

Swan Lake is a man-made body of water located at the heart of Hefei’s government headquarters.