Call For Project

Remotely Connecting Life Rafts for Lifting

How might we connect a lifting wire to a liftable life raft at sea without having persons on the water doing it?

by Fredrik Falkman, SSRS

Subject Mass Rescue, Rescue
Status Further Development Needed
Results Report, Sketch/model
Owner Type Rescue organizations

Lifting life rafts – with people in them – to the safety onboard a nearby ship, would be a very fast way to rescue people after a mass evacuation at sea. But if the helping ship has to launch a rescue boat to connect the rafts, that means putting the crew in harms way. How might we use an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and an automatic hook – or som other creative solution – to connect life rafts remotely?


This is an initial call. Our research so far has not given indication that an obvious solution exists. Any level of work furthering the field would be appreciated, e.g.:

  • Research into existing projects, technology and products
  • Ideation about possible solutions
  • Research and development of technologies that would make the idea possible
  • Development of a working prototype


Lifting life rafts – with people in them – to the safety onboard a nearby ship, without having to transfer people one by one from one rescue appliance to another, is the core idea of the mass rescue project.

To show the feasibility of this idea, the FIRST team has developed and repeatedly tested equipment and methods to launch a small rescue boat from a ship, to connect life rafts, and to recover the rescue boat again, all in realistic rough sea conditions.

The development of boats, cranes, cradles, etc. is ongoing, but however well we design these systems, there will always be a reluctance – for many good reasons – to put personell on the water. That’s why we would like to explore ways to connect rafts remotely.

pasted-image-2This is a situation most crews are not trained for 

The challenge of connecting life rafts remotely could be divided in two main areas:

1 Getting the end of the lifting wire to the lifting point on the life raft

Most modern ships can maneuver to a close distance from a raft, or even get it alongside, but ship sides can be high, and waves and wind will make it difficult to impossible to connect by hand.

As an initial project constraint, expect a ship to be able to maneuver a crane to within 25-100 m from a raft.

There are then two challenges in geting the wire to the raft:

  • Physically getting the wire there
  • Remotely aiming or maneuvering or, preferably, automatically acquiring the raft connection point as a target and automatically navigating to it

2 Connecting the wire to the lifting point

Once the end of the lifting wire is close enough to the life rafts lifting point, or whatever extension of it that is deemed appropriate, a mechanism has to be able to securely lock the wire to the raft and give clear feedback of successful connection.

It seems reasonable to make the raft side of the arrangement as simple/dumb/light/low tech/cheap as possible. There are more rafts than ships!

pasted-image-3The yellow lifting strop is a modification to the raft to make it possible to connect from a boat. Remote connection will require other modifications


One possible solution might include putting an Unmanned Arial Vehicle, UAV (also known as a Drone) on the end of the lifting wire. Some of the things a UAV solution would require:

  • A light lifting wire, e.g. Dyneema
  • A UAV strong and fast enough to pull the weight of the wire, and the wind force acting on it in high winds
  • Sturdy enough to withstand harsh environment and possibly falling into the sea
  • Having propellers or other means of lift covered to prevent tangling
  • Light enough to reduce risk of injury if it falls on a raft
  • Might be powered through the lifting wire

There might be any number of other solutions; a long fishing rod, a swimming drone…


This is a Life Raft that would be a good starting point. It was designed for lowering into the water fully loaded, but can just as well be lifted with people inside:

UAV:s can be made sturdy and protected from getting tangled:

And don’t miss Sergei Lupashin TED Talk on Fotokite, a drone on a leash!

An other tethered drone:


Please ask us anything via the contact box below!


19/3 2014 This Call was posted on

Who is behind the project?

This is a project call from the Innovation office at Swedish Sea Rescue Society, SSRS. It has its origins in the mass rescue project.

The SSRS is a non-profit organization that performs 70% of sea rescues in Sweden thanks to some 2000 volunteers . Our constitution says that we are to:

  • Further the interest in sea rescue matters
  • Propose ways to improve sea rescue
  • Perform sea rescue operations

The person proposing this project is me, Fredrik Falkman. I’m an industrial designer by training working for the SSRS with development projects and general innovation. Beside my work at the SSRS, I run a design consultancy: Fredrik Falkman Design AB, FFD.


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