Robot lifeguard hits Malibu's surf beaches

Robotic lifeguard E.M.I.L.Y. powers through the Malibu surf
Robotic lifeguard E.M.I.L.Y. powers through the Malibu surf

A robotic lifeguard called Emily (short for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard) has hit the exclusive surf beaches of Malibu in California this month, much to the dismay of the more traditional human model of lifeguard.

Emily has been patrolling Malibu's Zuma Beach, with her inventor claiming that she can swim twelve times as fast as human lifeguards.

Emily doesn't look like your 'traditional' robot. Instead she is a four-foot-long remote-controlled robotic buoy. Emily is set to cost around $3,500, and also makes use of a sonar system which builds 3D maps of surrounding water currents and is able to identify noises associated with swimmers in trouble.

Robots don't surf!

47-year-old inventor Tony Mulligan claims that his latest creation can power through Malibu's heavy white-water breaking surf at over 24 miles an hour. Quite an achievement, as any would-be surfer that's tried paddling out in heavy waves will know.

Mulligan previously ran a company called Advanced Ceramics Research, creating unmanned aircraft for the US government. He sold that company to British Aerospace Electronic Systems for $14.7 million in the summer of 2009.

Emily was later born out of an original project back in late 2009 to build a small remote-controlled boat to monitor marine life for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Mulligan's new startup is an Arizona-based company called Hydronalix, producing 'new technology concepts for maritime robotics.'

Human lifeguard hits back

However, those pesky old-fashioned 'human' models of lifeguard are not taking this robot threat lying down.

"This is a classic example of an inventor's idea of how to solve a problem that doesn't necessarily coincide with reality," according to the president of the US Lifesaving Association B. Chris Brewster, who also points out that Emily would be of no help to an unconscious swimmer or surfer.


Adam Hartley