Defense Media Network

EMILY Robot Is a Lifesaver

From Whales to Silver Foxes to Refugees



By Warren Duffie, contractor, Office of Naval Research Corporate Strategic Communications

She’s tough – capable of punching through 30-foot waves and riptides or smashing into rocks and reefs. But she’s also tender, providing hope to those in peril.

Outfitted in bright orange, red and yellow colors, each cylindrical EMILY buoy is four feet long and weighs 25 pounds. It’s powered by a jet engine system similar to a mini jet ski, shoots a water jet stream for propulsion and travels up to 22 miles per hour. EMILY also has two-way communication radios, a video camera with a live feed to smart phones and lights for night rescues.

Meet EMILY the robotic lifeguard-officially known as the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard – a remote-controlled buoy that recently was used to rescue nearly 300 Syrian migrants from drowning in the waters off the Greek island of Lesbos.

Created with support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), several EMILY devices will be displayed in action for the public during the 2016 Naval STEM Expo and Sea-Air-Space Exposition – both to be held at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. EMILY’s demo schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday, May 15: Naval STEM Expo. 1:30 p.m.-4:40 p.m., South Dock of the Gaylord.
  • Monday, May 16-Wednesday, May 18: 9:15 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.-3 p.m., South Dock of the Gaylord. There also will be a display at ONR’s booth at Sea-Air-Space.

EMILY is the successful culmination of a collaboration between inventor Tony Mulligan, ONR and the Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. SBIR provides the Navy with innovative advances in technology created by small firms – while STTR transitions products developed by both small businesses and research institutions to the Navy and Marine Corps.

The technology in EMILY took a long road over 15 years – advancing from marine mammal research to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Iraq.

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