CORAL MANTA 3000
Occupying 13 acres at the top of College Hill in Easton, PA, the Easton YMCA has been a welcome institution in the Leigh Valley for over a decade. The Easton YMCA has a heated indoor swimming pool and whirlpool, an indoor sauna, an outdoor swimming pool, ample locker rooms, a state of the art fitness center, a racquet ball court, a full court gymnasium, a dance studio, a child watch center, and more. The center offers programs to cater to all ages of the community year round. As stated on their website, “The Y is committed to strengthening community by positively changing lives every day. At each of our branches, we concentrate our efforts in three areas: Healthy Living, Youth Development, and Social Responsibility.” One way the Easton YMCA is seeing that these standards are met is with the introduction of a new lifeguard drone for their indoor swimming pool.
The Easton YMCA, one of seven facilities in the Greater Valley YMCA region, is piloting the program that utilizes a drone like device to monitor the pool. The device was made by Coral Detection Systems and is called the Coral Manta 3000. Shaped like a stingray, the Coral Manta sits discretely in the corner, or along the edge of a pool, taking up very little space. As the company points out, “Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of death among children aged 1-18, with 86% of drowning incidents occurring in residential pools.” The Coral Manta is not like a tool that keeps people out of the pool, like a safety fence or motion detection alarm. Instead it constantly monitors what is going on inside the pool, whether the occupants were authorized or not. It even keeps watch over a pool when it is empty.
This drone like pool monitor goes well beyond the actions of a detection system. It uses a complex AI program to keep a pool safe. The company’s website explains that it “constantly monitors the pool with its built-in underwater video camera, using computer vision and artificial intelligence technology . CORAL MANTA is programmed to detect people in the pool as well as their position and motion. Using this technology it constantly analyzes the real time video that it captures from the underwater camera and whenever it identifies a near drowning event it generates an alarm.” The device is able to detect the difference between a near drowning experience and underwater play. If an incident occurs, a loud alarm goes off and alerts are sent through an app to any handheld device. There is no need to turn the system on and off when the pool is not in use or being cleaned. The Coral Manta works 24 hours, 7 days a week powered by it’s built in solar panels or electric safety plug.
While it was originally intended for use in residential pools, it is a perfect fit for the Easton YMCA’s pool. With morning through evening aquatic hours, including time slots for lessons and competition leagues, the pool is always full. The facility employs highly trained lifeguards whom have prevented many drownings from ever happening on their watch, but having an extra guard system is always a good idea. For now Easton has four of the devices, one for each corner of the large indoor swimming pool. David Fagerstrom, CEO of the Greater Valley YMCA, said he had been looking for a program like this for years. With the Coral Manta, he was finally able to find something that would go beyond being a motion detection system, but act as an extra staff lifeguard.
In no way does the Coral Manta replace the vigilant watch of a human, it is there to be an extra security measure. As Coral Detection Systems almost jokingly says, “CORAL MANTA detects the vast majority of the drowning cases, but in the same way you would not drive recklessly just because you have a safety belt and an airbag, you should not rely solely on any safety system when people’s life is at stake. Adult supervision is always required.” If the pilot program is successful in Easton, more devices will be put into the other Greater Valley branches. “The YMCA has been America’s leading swim instructor for more than 100 years, and the safety of our members is a priority at the Y,” Fagerstrom said. “Most drowning deaths are preventable deaths, and we are proud to pilot with Coral Detection Systems to enhance our already-existing safety around water practices. This system will not replace lifeguards, but act as an additional layer of drowning protection.” The Greater Valley YMCA could be setting the bar with how community based pools keep people safe with the use a drone like AI system.