Earlier this year, RTS Lab unveiled its concept for Pars, an aerial robot that flies out over a large body of water to air-drop life preservers near drowning victims. Like many design concepts, we weren't sure if this life-saving drone would ever become a reality, but it seems the Iran-based company was recently able to fund a working prototype and even test its capabilities in open water. Based on these initial tests, it's possible that this flying, GPS-guided lifeguard could be out there saving lives sooner than you think.

Over the course of four days in August of this year, the Pars development team visited the Caspian Sea to conduct a battery of tests on its brand new prototype. The location was chosen in part for its proximity to the RTS lab, but also because it's been the site of several tragic drownings in the past few years, including an incident that took the lives of six students this past summer. Among other attributes, the team tested the Pars' stability during flight, the accuracy of the life preserver release mechanism, and the bot's performance in both day and nighttime conditions. According to the researchers at RTS Labs, the prototype bot met their expectations perfectly.

The Pars was able to fly for 10 minutes at a top speed of 10 m/s (22.4 mph) before needing to recharge. This gives it a maximum range of 4.5 km (2.8 miles), making it ideal for emergencies occurring along coastlines and near ships at sea. It also proved to have a distinct advantage over its flesh and blood counterparts, since it can bypass treacherous waters with ease.

When conducting a trial rescue mission, the drone was able to reach a target 75 m (246 ft) away and drop its payload in about 22 seconds, while a human lifeguard took 91 seconds to swim to the same location. During testing at night, the Pars was also able to illuminate targets on the ground and make itself more visible to its controller on land using several bright LEDs.

RTS Lab has pointed out that the drone's fast speed combined with a capacity for several life preservers means it could attend to multiple people in one trip. With its built-in GPS, it can even be programmed to fly to a certain area, dispense life preservers to anyone in danger, and then automatically return to its base. Of course, the aerial bot won't be able to pull anyone to safety just yet, but it could be sent out ahead of rescue crews to provide some initial aid. The researchers are also hoping it could give emergency teams a birds-eye view of the situation and help them plot a safe path to where they need to go.

With such an important job on its shoulders, RTS Lab wants to make sure that the Pars functions as well as possible before attempting to distribute it internationally. The company hopes to refine its current design based on these trials and possibly add some more features, though it is still looking for further funding to make this possible.

Besides increasing its speed and range, the group has considered redesigning the drone so it can land on the water in an emergency and outfitting it with an artificial intelligence that processes images and sound to locate people in trouble. Presumably, if they receive the necessary funding, the designers may also construct an off-shore landing platform for multiple Pars drones, which was outlined in the original concept.

Until we hear more on the project though, you can check out the video below to see the Pars robot racing against a human lifeguard (the actual footage begins at 25 seconds).

Source: RTS Lab