Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and a time when thousands of Connecticut sun-worshippers flock to the beach. Many will drive just over the border to enjoy Rhode Island’s coastline. And this year, they may meet EMILY, a new robotic lifeguard.
When there are powerful rip tides along the stretch of beaches at Misquamicut, Lisa Konicki says even the strongest swimmers may panic.
"...and sometimes attempt to swim toward shore instead of parallel to the shore which is the real way and only way to get out of a rip tide. That is a perfect example of a situation where an EMILY lifeguard robot could be deployed and reach a swimmer in distress far faster than a human."
Konicki is executive director of the Greater Westerly/Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber raised the funds to buy EMILY, an Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard.
The bright orange motorized rescue buoy is about the size of a surfboard and operated by remote control. An Arizona-based company, Hydronalix, designed the robot.
Bob Lautrup is executive vice president.
"One individual, without risk to himself, even in bad weather can toss Emily from a helicopter, from a boat where the boat might not be able to get in close to rocks or from the shore or from a pier and go at a maximum speed of 25 miles an hour to the victim, which is a lot faster than a swimmer can swim."
A person can grab on until rescued or can be towed back to shore.
Rhode Island town beaches at Misquamicut are the first on the East Coast to use EMILY.