Red tape grounds drone beach lifesaver

Plans for a beach drone to locate swimmers in trouble and drop a life-belt to them have been grounded by bureaucracy.

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Tests at a beach in Biscarrosse, Landes, in July, were halted due to a delay in permission to use the drone. Anthony Gavend, co-founder of drone developer Helper, told Connexion: “We were born in the wrong country. French bur­eau­cracy strangles companies like ours. We are looking to move elsewhere in Europe, or even to the US.

“We needed permission to fly a drone from a beach, but the Paris office is taking its time, which is frustrating as we know it works and can save lives.”

The drones can be airborne in seconds after someone is spotted in difficulty, can fly at up to 80kph, and drop life-saving equipment near the swimmer.

Mr Gavend still hopes the tests will go ahead as a similar service was launched in Fuen­girola in Spain earlier this year.

The move comes as a study showed that France has 500 deaths a year due to drowing and one in six people cannot swim. Two out of three over-65s are non-swimmers but 95% of 15-24 year olds can swim as most learned at school.

Children aged 6-12 are being offered 15 hours of swimming lessons by the FFN swimming federation in a national campaign. A flat fee of €15 covers insurance and the FFNatation website lists participating clubs.