For many Afghan migrants fleeing war and poverty amid the ongoing refugee crisis, the Greek island of Lesbos is considered a gateway to Europe. According to a recent story by NPR, a 4-foot, 25-pound remote-controlled buoy named EMILY (which stands for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard) could save Afghan migrants stuck in waters off the northern shore of Lesbos. Tony Mulligan, the inventor of EMILY, has donated two EMILY buoys to Greece and another two to Turkey to help with the rescue of refugees.
EMILY is powered by a jet engine system that’s essentially a miniature version of a jet ski. The buoys can travel up to 30 knots. Mulligan says that in addition to being fast, he designed the buoys to be almost indestructible.
“They’re made out of Kevlar and aircraft-grade composites,” he says. “They can handle a 30-foot wave. They can be thrown off a helicopter or off of bridges.”
Mulligan and his team made the first EMILY in 2010. The prototype was built to respond quickly in surf zones to assist swimmers caught up in rip currents. The first rescue involved a father and son caught in rough surf off the coast of Oregon. Since then, Mulligan has made numerous enhancements to the technology. The 2016 version of Emily is equipped with two-way communication radios, a video camera with live feed to smart phones and lighting for night rescues. The motor is three times more powerful so it can fight strong currents. Right now, up to eight people can grab on to EMILY at a given time.
Mulligan is currently working with Texas A&M University’s Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue to make EMILY autonomous. The team is creating a computer program that would let a lifeguard use coordinates to drive EMILY near a group of people in need and to position itself in a way that allows the greatest number of people to grab on. This would free up the lifeguard to concentrate on other people in immediate distress.