Drone technology relays audio messages to keep those on water safe

State-of-the-art drone technology targeting recreational boaties to keep the water safe is being trialled in Marlborough this weekend.

Audio messages relayed to vessels reinforcing reminders about speed and other safety concerns is said to be a game-changer in creating a safer boating culture.

"Making sure that people have two forms of communication, making sure they've got their life jackets, making sure the skipper understands the need to be responsible," says Harbourmaster Captain Luke Grogan.

Maritime New Zealand is footing the almost $4000 bill for this trial, designed to encourage good behaviour and help reduce our recreational boating deaths. Last year, 15 people died on the water.

"When you have things going wrong out there, that costs a whole lot more than this kind of initiative," says Grogan.

The idea came from the use of drones alerting shark sightings to beachgoers and using unmanned aircraft to communicate health messaging during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those out on the water on Saturday found it a novel experience.

"They gave us messages like 'keep paddling' and 'you're doing really great', that was quite amusing and also encouraging," said one person.

"I think it's a good reminder to people because it's done in a fun way," said another.

Those behind the trial say they expect there'll be noise and privacy issues.

"We fully understand that, but at the same time when you're out on the water it's important to recognise that you're not out on your own. We need to be courteous and considerate of other boaties around us," says Grogan.

Other regions could see the drones in operation too. Further trials are planned to get this world-leading technology off the ground.