Trial to assess use of drones in coastal search and rescue missions
- Credit: Essex Police
Walton, Clacton are Mersea Island are among coastal areas of Essex taking part in a trial of drone technology to support search and rescue missions.
The 12-month scheme is being led by Essex Police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the RNLI.
During the trial, Essex Police’s Drone Unit will help search for casualties in hazardous locations, direct coastguard and lifeboat crews, and enable emergency services to risk-assess situations before deploying personnel.
Results of the trial will inform the MCA and RNLI’s work to explore the role of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in future search and rescue activity.
Coastguard teams from Walton, Clacton, Mersea Island, South Woodham Ferrers, Southend and Canvey Island will be taking part in the trial, supported by lifeboats and hovercraft located at six RNLI lifeboat stations along the coast.
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Phil Hanson, aviation technical assurance manager at the MCA, said the trial would allow rescuers to make more informed decisions and help make the coast safer.
“One thing we need to stress is that the drones will not replace our coastguard helicopters, coastguard rescue teams, RNLI or independent lifeboats,” he added.
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“However, it is entirely possible that they could be an additional tool to use in search and rescue, and enhance our existing capabilities.”
Essex Police drone manager, Perran Bonner’s team will be available to provide a live view of the county’s coast, investigate suspicious behaviour, respond to welfare concerns or search for missing people.
Will Roberts, senior innovation manager at the RNLI, said: “This pilot will provide our lifesavers with the opportunity to benefit from the advantages that drones can provide.
“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. 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.
“Working with Essex Police’s Drone Unit will also allow potentially dangerous scenes to be risk assessed before our volunteer lifeboat crews are deployed to the scene.”