The image of lifeguards could soon be changed from sunburned teenagers working a summer job by a new and relatively inexpensive lifesaving device.
EMILY (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard) - a remote-controlled lifeguard, looks like a buoy but it's a small watercraft fitted with a flotation device.
It can go up to 22 mph and can get to people more quickly, and in some cases more safely, than any human.
It is being used by a handful of communities. Last month, it was used in its first rescue.
"In the day and age of shrinking budgets and the availability of personnel, this is just another thing we can use," the New York Daily News quoted Joshua Williams, chief of the Depoe Bay Fire District in Oregon, which performed the rescue with it July 15, as saying.
"It's proven itself by saving a father and a son. It's really all the proof that we need," Williams said.
EMILY is a little over 4 feet long, weighs 25 pounds and costs about 10,000 dollars. It's made by Hydronalix, a Green Valley, Ariz., company established in 2009.
If a swimmer is struggling, a lifeguard or anyone else can put battery-powered EMILY in the water and, with a remote control, send it through even rough waves to help. Some locations attach an emergency radio so they can instruct panicked swimmers on what to do.
While EMILY can't bring swimmers back to shore, but it can keep them safe until rescuers get there, or be attached to a rope so rescuers can pull it and anyone holding on back in.
EMILY doesn't replace a lifeguard - someone must be on shore to operate EMILY, and lifeguards have skills EMILY can't replicate. EMILY also can't be used if a swimmer is unconscious.