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Staying safe in the surf with AI

17 May, 2023
News and events

A team of our Information Technology lecturers is looking at how to use Artificial Intelligence to keep people safe in the water.

Ganeshan, Farhad Mehdipour, Waruni Hewage, and Julia Ma are working on an autonomous surf lifeguarding system using AI and machine learning.

The project has three stages. In the first stage, shore-based and drone-based systems will be developed to identify and send help to people who become aware that they are in trouble in the water and signal for help.

The second stage will focus on identifying rips, helping people avoid getting caught in them, and sending help to people caught in rips.

The third and most difficult stage will explore ways of identifying people showing typical drowning responses and identifying faster ways of sending help, using drones and self-inflating floatation devices.

The team of lecturers is having conversations with Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) about the idea and is also exploring collaborations with NIWA.

Ganeshan gave a keynote address about water safety to a Sri Lankan community group in Sydney over Zoom this month.

He says the Sri Lankan community has had its fair share of drownings. Five young Tamils drowned at a UK beach in a single incident some years ago.

Ganeshan says water safety is an important issue given we have around 100 drownings in New Zealand per year.

He says more than a dozen people he knows have got into trouble in the water and four have drowned.