A partnership between Essex Police, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), in the UK, will see a new drone trial implemented across the coast of Essex over the next 12 months.
The year-long trial, which starts on the 29 April, will see a drone support the HM Coastguard Rescue Teams in their vital search and rescue (SAR) operations. Searching for casualties in hazardous locations, directing HM Coastguard and RNLI lifeboat crews to their locations and allowing emergency services to risk assess situations before deploying rescue personnel to the scene are just some of the activities that Essex Police’s new drone will undertake.
Aviation Technical Assurance Manager at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency Phil Hanson said: “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, and assist with night time thermal imagery searches and relaying messages from rescuers to casualties. This will allow rescuers to make more informed decisions and ultimately help make the coast safer – particularly as the busy season is now almost upon us.”
Hanson also stressed that the drones would not be replacing the Coastguard helicopters, Coastguard Rescue Teams, RNLI or independent lifeboats, but were very likely to be an invaluable addition to existing SAR capabilities.
Will Roberts, Senior Innovation Manager at the RLNI, added: “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.”
At the end of the trial period, the impact that the drones have on coastal SAR activity in the region will be assessed and help inform the MCA and RNLI’s ongoing evaluation of how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can assist future SAR activity.
“The technology available to us and the expertise of our officers mean that we can provide accurate and up-to-date information to the relevant people, ensuring that a quick and appropriate response can be taken, that Essex residents and visitors are kept safe and anyone using our coastline to commit crime are brought to justice,” concluded Essex Police Drone Manager Perran Bonner.