Rio de Janeiro firefighters are beginning to use drones equipped with cameras and with life preservers for quicker rescues and to prevent people from drowning at crowded beaches like Ipanema and Copacabana, authorities said Tuesday.

The drone's camera will be able to transmit the exact position of a person in danger, and its flotation device can be dropped so "the possible victim can stay on the surface of the water until lifeguards arrive," the commander of the Copacabana Maritime Association, Lt. Col. Fernando Santos, said.

The small, unmanned aircraft will allow paramedics working on the beach as lifeguards to spot possible victims beyond the breaking waves, Santos said in a statement released Tuesday by the government of Rio de Janeiro state.

Lifesaving crews are also equipped with motorcycles and life rafts, a well as with boats and aircraft.

Lifesaving operations are particularly important during the Southern Hemisphere's summer season, which began last week. The drone operation will continue until April and will chiefly be focused on Copacabana, one of beachgoers' favorite stretches of waterfront.

To operate the drones, the pilots had to pass a 240-hour training course, the head of the fire department's Unmanned Aircraft Coordination Unit, Lt. Col. Rodrigo Bastos, said.

"They're taught disciplines like data transmission, equipment recovery and flight security among others. The course is based on three basic points: Safety, equipment maintenance and training," Bastos said.

The lifeguard corps, to guarantee the safety of beachgoers in Rio de Janeiro, will have an additional 50 percent manpower available, meaning that close to 900 qualified rescuers will be at work at the state's beaches. 

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