The U.S. Navy funded research on the development of a fast-swimming “robot lifeguard” that saved Syrian refugees from drowning but has no immediate plans to acquire the EMILY system for the military.

“That’s my mission in life, to win them over,” Tony Mulligan, the inventor of the system and CEO and president of Arizona-based Hydronalix Inc., said Tuesday of his hopes to see EMILYs aboard U.S. Navy ships. “Other navies and coast guards around the world are using it.”

The four-foot, 25-pound EMILYs, for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, were on display at the Navy booth this week at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space exposition at National Harbor, and several of them were also zipping about in the Potomac outside the exhibition halls.

Fernando Boiteux, an assistant chief and 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, described EMILY as a “self-propelled life jacket” as he guided two of the maritime robots across a river inlet Monday with a hand-held remote.


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