Photo Credit: United Hatzalah
The new United Hatzalah aquatic rescue drone.

Last month, United Hatzalah’s Tveria chapter received a special life-saving tool – a brand new aquatic rescue drone. The new drone is powerful enough to carry and safely drop life preservers for drowning victims anywhere in the Kineret. The drone was given to the chapter by an anonymous donor to curb the number of fatal drowning incidents on the lake.

In the hot summer, Israelis flock to the Kinneret, and many stay in or around the city of Tveria. That’s when multiple drowning incidents take place annually, due to people’s ignorance about the dangerous afternoon current that sweeps swimmers out to the center of the lake.

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Hatzalah’s Tveria chapter, headed by Yossi Oknin, has been at the forefront of the marine rescue efforts for more than a decade. Utilizing a rescue boat and several jet skis, local United Hatzalah volunteers assist the maritime police in patrolling the lake throughout the swimming season from April to October. Using their vessels, Oknin and his team provide emergency care and undertake marine rescues in a matter of minutes.

United Hatzalah boat and Jet Ski on the Kinneret. / Moshe Mizrachi

The new drone can lift up to two kilograms, making it capable of carrying a rescue buoy or a life-jacket. It can fly over long distances and make it to the center of the lake and back.

The drone is water-resistant, and can land in water using special floating devices that keep it afloat, then take off again without damage to its systems. This allows the lifesaving equipment to be delivered safely to any drowning victim even if the drone connection fails and the drone plummets into the lake.

The first-ever aquatic rescue drone to fly over the Kinneret also carries a specialized camera that can scan the lake and locate drowning victims. This technology is especially useful at night when the drone uses a thermal imaging camera to locate people in distress who would otherwise be invisible.

“We already began practice drills with the drone,” Oknin said, adding, “I am very optimistic that this flying rescue machine will make a significant change and help lower the number of drownings we see on the lake annually.”

Still, according to Oknin, “The best way to prevent drowning is with proper education and following protocol. But when that isn’t done, the volunteers of United Hatzalah’s Tveria chapter will always be on call and ready to help.”

According to Oknin, his chapter’s current goal is to raise money for many similar drones and to place them in volunteers’ homes around the Kinneret. By splitting up the lake into sections, each covered by a different drone, response time would be shortened and more lives could be saved.

Oknin added: “We have enough volunteers around the Kinneret for us to go through with this plan. Many times, when western winds blow toward the east, swimmers get caught in the tide and drift to the other side of the Kinneret, the Golan Heights. If we have drones strategically placed around the lake to locate and assist potential drowning victims, we will bring down significantly the number of drownings.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.