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Rocket-Propelled Life Preserver Wins 2010 James Dyson Award

By Matthew Harwood

The challenge of the James Dyson Award is simple: "design something that solves a problem."

For 2010's winner, Australian student and army reservist Samuel Adeloju, drowning while help is near is the problem; so he created the solution.

In a typical drowning situation, a struggling swimmer must rely on a rescuer to reach him before the water gobbles him up. Adeloju's Longreach Buoyancy Deployment System, however, ingeniously buys more time for a rescuer to ready a response and reach the victim.

Borrowing the design of a rocket-propelled grenade, Adeloju's rescue system fires an expanding foam bullet up to 500 feet. Once the bullet hits the water, it expands forty-times its original size into a life preserver. And because the bullet is made of foam, even if it strikes the victim, it would do as much damage as a tennis ball, Adeloju told CNET Australia (second video below).

Because the system can be deployed safely from a ship deck or from shore, Longreach also minimizes the risk of a rescuer drowning during the response as well. To aid rescue during dusk and night-time, the life preserver is equipped with a  light for detection.

Adeloju sees his invention in the hands of lifeguards, sailors, fishermen and emergency personnel, really anyone who has to deal with drowning as an occupational hazard. 

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