Hornet News

UK Search and Rescue Drone

Trial under way

A year long study taking place off the coast of Essex will involve the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the RNLI and Essex Police's Drone Unit. At the end of the pilot scheme, the impact of the drones on coastal search and rescue activities will be assessed to find out if unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVs, have a future in RNLI and MCA operations.

Last April, the MCA and RNLI carried out a five day trial of drones off the St. Athan coast in South Wales, putting the equipment through four scenarios - a shoreline search for a casualty, an offshore search for multiple casualties in the sea, a mud rescue, and a communications blackspot where a drone was required to relay information between rescue teams and a casualty on a cliff.

A variety of drones were used in the scenarios, including rotary platforms that offer stability for electro-optic and thermal sensor capabilities, a tethered drone and fixed wing platforms that are runway or catapult launched.

HM Coastguard teams from Walton, Clacton, Mersea Island, South Woodham Ferrers, Southend and Canvey Island will be involved in the trial, supported by inshore and all weather lifeboats and hovercraft crews strategically located at six RNLI lifeboat stations along the Essex coastline.

The RNLI is keen to see if drone use can cut the time it takes to locate casualties in inshore waters and around the coast. Its senior innovation manager, Will Roberts, said, 'When lives are at risk the speed at which crews can locate and reach a casualty is vital. 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', he stressed.