The Sky’s the Limit When Drones Hit the Beaches; Our New Governor Is Worth His Weight in Gold

By JAY MANN | Jan 24, 2018

I need to launch into this section with all props turning – droning all the way to Australia, a place I’ve never been but often visit vicariously in here.

In this Aussie case, I’ll focus on a fortuitous rescue of some struggling swimmers, caught in an outgoing rip current fostered by jumbo surf. In preventing the struggling swimmers from going, uh, down under, a rescue technique was employed that has opened my eyes to the future of our own shoreline, specifically the protection of same. I’ll explain.

So, there’s this group of Aussie lifeguards who are professionally investigating, aka playing around with, larger drones geared to patrol that nation’s oft shark-prone waters. But far more came into play this day. Barely into their drone research, an emergency call comes in regarding those above-mentioned dire-straits swimmers. The strugglers were not all that far away. A rescue lightbulb goes off above the heads of the guards. In short order, one of the experimental drones is soon guided out to the swimmers. It happens to be equipped with sundry flotation devices.

With an onboard GoPro going full blast, the drone drops the lifesaving equipment for the swimmers to cling to, awaiting more conventional rescue. The day has been saved, drone-style.

Now, you might ask why the droning lifeguards – of which Aussie-land sports some of finest – didn’t just swim out for a conventional rescue. Simple: They had a frickin’ drone, dude! OK, so maybe that’s more of a man-thing.

Anyway, the salvation from above, replete with video, made world news in a flash. I sure as hell flashed on it.

Serendipitously, this drone highlight reel likely marks a whole new era for safeguarding shorelines around the world, especially touristy shorelines, like ours truly.

No, it doesn’t only mean lifesaving devices will be dropped to struggling, hopefully uplooking bathers. “Oh hell! Not only am I drowning, but things are falling out of the skies on me!”

The possibilities of lifeguard drones are mind-boggling, especially in the case of industrial-grade drones, with which I’m passingly familiar.

Not long ago, I saw big-league drones in action. It was during one of my walkabouts in the pines. My attention was first drawn to distant sky-whines – bizarre sounds wafting through the air. I followed their siren song and eventually came upon commercial drones in training, guided by unseen folks inside a nearby drone “base camp.” I was spying the new future of flight. And it was looming large … literally. You can forget those little UPS-delivered family drones. I was seeing prototype drones the size of small airplanes. Later, I would read about military-grade drones the size and shapes of F-16s – jet-powered, no less! Let’ s see the UPS guys deliver one of those suckers.

“One camo-colored fighter jet drone for Jay Mann … sign here. Where should I put it?”

“Uh, definitely somewhere my neighbors can see it. … Let’s see ’em whine about my messy backyard now.”

There is one outstandingly aggravating thing about even cutting-edge drones: the din. These are not quiet aircraft. I quickly learned this when a larger one hit its air brakes and hovered noisily over me as I peeked upward from some laurel bushes.

Being a decent sport, and knowing I was being looked down upon, I decided to give the boys back at the base camp quite a sight. Out of bushes runs a strange little bearded man, jumping crazily up and down on the ground below, shaking a crudely made pine branch spear upward. “Sir, you might want to have a look at what Drone # 3 just came across.” Hey, I once saw that in a documentary, where jungle headhunters used the same ritual to scare off a plane flying too low overhead.

Anyway, the larger the drone, the greater the din. However, I guarantee all that irritating outpouring of drone prop noise will quickly be creatively squelched by the commercial drone industry. Hell, there are huge fighter helicopters that are close to soundless.

Sidebar: Being a prime Amazon shopper, I’m enthralled by the N.J.-based company’s vow to offer drone delivery … somewhat soon. Understand it’s not like that spot remover you ordered from Amazon will result in a drone lurkingly hovering at your front door – as you nonchalantly step outside and let loose a scream that’s heard around the block. I read up on Amazon’s drone plans. Its first delivery by “drone mail” will be solely with onboard customers; that means those of us begging to be among the first to hear the hum of an arriving package – ordered only an hour ago! Cooperating customers would establish a safe landing zone, be it at home or place of business. For me: “Just drone-drop that fresh bunker right next to my F-16, please.”

Circling back to the beach-guarding drone angle, an eye-in-the-sky craft on a massively crowded summer beach day is a match made in the heavens. Most swimmingly significant, an aerial view is the best way to spot rip currents. DYK: More people die from rip current-related drownings in a single year than in a combined 50 years of hurricanes, lighting strikes and sharks. Not only could a patrolling drone help home-base lifeguards spot fast-developing rips, but it could then be used to issue a warning to swimmers below, via a speaker system.

On a per-stand lifeguarding level, no more wasting bather-watching time to swim out and verbally chastise folks ignoring whistles about being too far out. Launch a lifeguard stand drone and whistle-snubbers will soon be put upon by a voice from above. There’s something about a voice from above that carries a certain added authority.

Obviously, we could also go Aussie and use drones to look about for menacing marine creatures. While sharks jump to mind – even more so as extreme shark protection has them proliferating like crazy – it wouldn’t hurt to espy stinging jellyfish, like arriving legions of lion’s manes. What’s more, warming oceans will likely mean more man-o-wars soon drifting our way. Then there are sudden showings of blitzing bluefish, something a drone could see a mile away.

OK, so maybe I’m a tad overly excited about drone days to come, but the potential for enhanced high-tech coastal safety via drones is through the ceiling – and I can watch it all through a new pair of Amazon sunglasses I can get delivered to my house in nothing flat.

WE REALLY SHOULD KNOW: This segment falls soundly under the better-late-than-never category.

We have a new governor … named Phil. He could be Punxsutawney Phil for all I know. We’ll know more if Bill Murray shows up in Trenton on or around Feb 2. Face it, Phil Murphy is a mystery to most Jerseyans.

While I pride myself on knowing squat about politics, there’s no turning a blind eye to the impacts a new king in Trenton might have on coastal fishing and shore life. After some ex post facto looking into Murphy, I can’t help but nervously wonder about his earnestness in even being a bona fide Jerseyan. Check it out …

Murphy was born and raised in Massachusetts. While I’m not a stickler about geography, I’m pretty sure that makes him a New Englander. At least he has the New (Jersey) part right.

Educated in economics, he spent his long, highly profitable professional life in the stratosphere of high finance, with NYC Goldman/Sachs. Even then, his career was highly overseas oriented; he resided for a lengthy time in Germany. It was in Berlin where he made a mint.

From Berlin, Goldman/Sachs whisked him off to its solid gold Hong Kong offices, where Murphy shone like precious metal, monitoring the company’s immersion in a shoe factory – a maker of well-soled shoes, produced by barefoot laborers. Murphy was not included in ugly allegations of unfair labor practices at the factory. In fact, his success in Asia upped his cha-ching rating.

Murphy was eventually promoted to a top-dog spot, as senior director of Goldman/Sachs. He retired in 2006, after tallying 23 years with the firm.

Upon his retiring, the German world affairs magazine Der Spiegel placed Murphy’s worth in the somewhat ambiguous “several hundred million dollars range.” His exact value was ambiguous, due to “the complicated nature of his holdings.” I’ll bet the farm his familiarity with overseas banking allowed him to tuck a goodly wad of money where taxmen fail to tread. I should be so well-educated – you know, seeing that I’m a hundredaire and all.

I guess I should mention Murphy’s Jersey arrival, which took place in the late 1990s, when he, his wife, Tammy, and four kids – three sons and a daughter – moved to Middletown Township. He lives in a riverside estate with a $200,000 annual property tax bill. He also owns homes in Berlin (Germany) and Italy. Who doesn’t, right?

By the by, I see absolutely no crime in being rich, even filthily so, providing it was gotten cleanly, which is exactly how hard-working Phil did it. Nicely done, governor dude.

For a sense of Murphy’s out-of-pocket pecuniary capabilities, during his run for governor, he garnered an impressive $19 million campaign war chest – of which $15 million was, let’s say, self-donated.

Not long after “retiring,” Murphy was appointed by President Barack Obama to the prestigious – and soon unenviable – post of United States ambassador to Germany, serving from 2009 to 2013. During his German tenure, WikiLeaks broke, exposing thought-confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, sparking “Cablegate.” Der Spiegel published the leaks, describing them as “nothing short of a political meltdown for U.S. foreign policy.” Murphy weathered the diplomatic storm of “Cablegate” and even managed to get things right between the U.S. and Germany before returning to N.J. – and eventual governorship.

Likely displaying my political ineptitude, I sense the guv may be using our small state as a big stepping stone to you-know-where. Christie’s foot was a tad too heavy.

Much of the above background info offers minimal insight into what I/we should think about our new governor. We hereby await any and all Trenton trickledown effects, as Murphy’s rule – hopefully not Murphy’s Law – reaches our coastal existence. Personally, I’ll be microscoping what’s up for saltwater fishing, Barnegat Bay preservation, fishery management and the all-inclusive coastal economy.

Of immediate importance to this column, Murphy might very well have a penchant to be focused on the green of money more than environmental green. I’ll even openly fret over being governed by someone whose entire adult life was spent in the rarified air of ultra-high finance. Here’s hoping our good governor possesses the ability to also keep friends in low places, Garth-style.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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