Swimmers running into trouble at Malibu's Zuma Beach this summer might owe their lives to a robot named EMILY. The robo-raft, set to launch there and 25 other beaches by December, could rescue victims six times faster than a human.
The raft operates via a remote control, held by a lifeguard on land. On board sonar helps lifeguards locate struggling victims in the surf and save them. How? Basically, EMILY is a padded surfboard strapped to an engine and jet ski impeller, capable of speeds up to 28 mph.
And yes, I hear what you're saying: Not really an autonomous robot! Well, fear not, as the ones released into the water come 2011 will be completely autonomous. On board software will somehow be able to distinguish between thrashing victim and surfer, and save them. [Popsci via Geekologie]