In 2010, Arizona-based tech firm Hydronalix debuted EMILY (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard), a robotic lifeguard that has helped swimmers caught in California riptides. Now a new version of the remote-controlled float–which includes a camera and radio–is being used to rescue migrants marooned on shoddy rafts off Greece. The $14,000 device can tow up to five people at once, zipping around water too shallow for rescue boats and too deep for lifeguards to easily reach; soon it may use thermal sensors to find people on its own. “It doesn’t replace first responders,” says co-inventor Robert Lautrup, “but it gives them another tool.”
This appears in the February 22, 2016 issue of TIME.