Updated: Sonar_EMILY rescue robot incorporates Humminbird® sonar to find drowning victims

Updated: Sonar_EMILY rescue robot incorporates Humminbird® sonar to find drowning victims

A state-of-the-art portable rescue craft is bringing more assistance to marine rescue teams. The Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard or EMILY, developed by Hydronalix, was first used to help lifeguards get to distressed swimmers faster than able-bodied first responders.

Since then, EMILY has been deployed by lifeguards, navies and coast guards around the world. In fact, the Center for Robot Search and Rescue (CRASAR), along with a team of researchers at Texas A&M, recently tested EMILY successfully with the Italian Coast Guard in a refugee rescue scenario. Now the robust four-foot cylindrical life-jacket-come-jet-ski has an essential role to play in Law Enforcement marine rescue operations – particularly due to its new sonar feature.

The radio-remote-controlled, battery-operated unit can speed through surf up to 22 miles per hour. With the addition of Humminbird® sonar, EMILY can enhance drowning victim searches. The speed at which EMILY finds the victim could be instrumental to successful resuscitation.

“I think the addition of the Humminbird sonar to the EMILY rescue craft is a fantastic opportunity for both Hydronalix and Humminbird,” says Vince Capone, owner of Black Laser Learning, a company that trains Law Enforcement, first responders and military customers on how to use different kinds of sonars. “It brings two very unique capabilities together in a way that provides rescue personnel with distinct advantages in a shallow and calm underwater search scenario.” 

EMILY’s portability is a huge time-saving benefit. It allows the search team the ability to quickly and easily deploy the rescue robot at a moment’s notice, no matter the location. EMILY can get into waters that a larger boat may not easily access and manoeuvre around piers or submerged logs and other obstructions. Even when working in a canal location beside a road, EMILY can be used – no need to trailer a boat to a location. In addition, due to its Kevlar reinforced composite hull, EMILY can be dropped from a helicopter or launched from a boat without being damaged.

Once the search area for a drowning victim is identified, EMILY can quickly go to work. A ground station the size of a small suitcase is all that’s required to operate it. Simply throw EMILY into the water and start searching.

EMILY’s Humminbird® sonar data quality is comparable to any surface search vessel. The sonar data is transmitted back to the ground station and the operator can watch the sonar data as it appears on the ground station. The data is recorded and stored with GPS information so that a map of the search area can be generated.

EMILY is a two-person operation; one person drives EMILY using remote control, while the other – an experienced Humminbird® sonar operator – operates the sonar. In the near future, EMILY will have the ability to program survey lines into the system and will automatically run the survey line, further refining its application to marine search and rescue field operations.

“Looking forward to newer versions with more autonomy and the higher frequency Humminbird integrated into the EMILY package,” says Capone.

Combining the EMILY rescue capabilities with the Humminbird sonar exponentially increases any team’s search and rescue operations.


March 7 & 8 Black Laser Learning’s Vince Capone provided advanced Humminbird® sonar training for the Los Angeles County Life Guards. The sonar was mounted on the remote controled Sonar_EMILY rescue craft. The team already had extensive experience with the EMILY as a recuse asset but now equipped with the Humminbird® sonar, the fiesty robot had an increased capability. ” Combining the LA Life Guards EMILY expereince with Black Laser Learning’s sonar experience and with factory support from Hydronalix we were able to develop new tactics and procedures on how to best deploy Sonar_EMILY,” said Vince Capone.

While new autonomy will allow Sonar_EMILY to increase it’s effectiveness in open water search applications, the highly manuverable robot has an immediate advantage around piers, in harbors and around obstructions which would hinder a more traditional sonar search. LA Life Guards practised locating a simulated drowning victim in the confined space of the harbor piers. The effort resulted in modifying tactics so the teams became very proficient at searching in and around complex dock areas.

All and all a great joint training exercise.

Check out this brief youtube video on the Center for Robot Search and Rescue (CRASAR), Texas A&M and Italian Coast Guard mass casualty EMILY exercise.

Images of EMILY Sonar ops with Pima County Dive Recovery Team at Lake Patagonia

Images of Texas A&M / Hydronalix team testing EMILY’s capabilities at rescue training operation.

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