A DRONE that helped save two teenagers in trouble off a Lennox Head beach has been praised by Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
He, along with Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair and Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin, witnessed the world-first rescue unfold.
"This is a world first rescue," Mr Barilaro said.
"Never before has a drone, fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this".
The trio were in Lennox Head for the launch of the Westpac Little Ripper drone as part of a State Government trial of the technology on North Coast beaches.
Mr Barilaro said the rescue demonstrated that the government's $430,000 investment in drone technology on the state's beaches was already paying off.
"It's quite incredible to see that the NSW Government's investment in this technology has already resulted in two people having their lives saved," he said.
The rescue happened about 11.30am, as lifeguards were preparing for a training session to familiarise themselves with the drones.
A bystander alerted lifeguards to the two teens, who were swimming in powerful surf about a kilometre north of the flags at Lennox Head's Main Beach.
Lifeguard Supervisor Jai Sheridan, the 2017 NSW Lifeguard of the Year, was piloting the Westpac Little Ripper that located the struggling swimmers and dropped a flotation device to them.
The swimmers were able to cling onto it and make their own way to shore where they were met by Lennox Head lifeguards.
The pair were uninjured during the ordeal.
Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin thanked the lifeguards for their incredible efforts.
"It took only 70 seconds from when the Little Ripper drone was launched to when it dropped the pod into the ocean for the rescue, a task that would usually take a lifeguard up to 6 minutes to complete," Mr Franklin said.
Westpac Little Ripper CEO, Eddie Bennet, said the drone technology has been three years in development to enable the world first drone rescue.