UK Coastguard Tests Drones for Coastal Search and Rescue

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The Essex Police, the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) are launching a year-long trial to test the use of drones in search and rescue applications. The trial, which kicks off today, will provide HM Coastguard's rescue teams with more aerial search assets. Essex Police’s Drone Unit will provide the drones as a service, and the partners expect that the new tool will give SAR teams a better way to search hazardous coastal areas and evaluate risks before sending in human rescue teams.

"The increased situational awareness that drones provide could play a significant role in helping us locate casualties as quickly as possible. When lives are at risk, the speed at which our crews can locate and reach a casualty is vital," said Will Roberts, Senior Innovation Manager at the RNLI. "Being able to see the impact that drones can have in helping our lifeboat crews search and then reach casualties through this pilot will be extremely useful."

At the end of the year-long pilot, the impact that drones have had on coastal search and rescue will be assessed, and that information will help inform the MCA and RNLI’s ongoing work to explore the role that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can play in future search and rescue activity.

Six HM Coastguard Teams and six RNLI lifeboat stations along the Essex coastline will be taking part in the trial.

‘Thanks to the Essex Police Drone Unit, we are able to trial this innovative technology to help rescuers on the front line with more accurate aerial vision, conduct searches in hard to reach or hazardous areas, assist with night time thermal imagery searches and relaying messages from rescuers to casualties," said Phil Hanson, Aviation Technical Assurance Manager at the UK MCA. "One thing we need to stress is that the drones will not replace our Coastguard helicopters, Coastguard Rescue Teams, RNLI or independent lifeboats. However, it is entirely possible that they could be an additional tool to use in search and rescue and enhance our existing capabilities."

 

The Maritime Executive

 

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