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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The lifeguard and fire brigade of Rio de Janeiro announced this week it will use experimental drones in beach rescue operations during Operação Verão 2016 (Operation Summer 2016). The drones will be programmed to drop floating devices to persons who are drowning.

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Drones equipped with cameras will scan waters and aid rescuers in locating the exact position of possible drowning victims, photo by Mauricio Pingo/Imprensa RJ.

The first beach to receive the drones will be Copacabana, due to the high number of beach-goers it receives during the summer period. The operation with the drones will be extended to all the beaches along Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) by April 2016.

According to Fernando Santos, commander of the Copacabana Fire Brigade Maritime Division, the drones are equipped with cameras that will scan the waters along the beach and aid rescuers in locating the exact position of possible drowning victims.

“When the victim is located, the equipment will drop a floating device, which will allow for the victim to remain afloat until lifeguards arrive,” Santos said in a statement released on Tuesday by the Rio de Janeiro government. The official says that sometimes, due to the waves and the number of people in the water, lifeguards find it difficult to observe those swimmers farther out in the ocean.

In addition to the drones, this summer’s rescue operation will also count on several jet-skis, life rafts, boats and helicopters to monitor the beaches during the summer period.

According to fire department officials, to learn how to safely operate the drones pilots had to undergo a 240-hour training course.

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