The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unofficially nicknamed ‘Baby Shark’, will fly safety patrols over North Wales. This trial comes after three months of testing the drone at Caernarfon in Gwynedd.
For the time being, the drones will only patrol at weekends.
Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard, told the BBC: "Search and rescue (SAR) is about saving lives. Every second counts and every minute saved can prove the difference between life and death. This kind of technology has a big part to play in those moments alongside our helicopters, coastguard rescue teams and our partners from the RNLI to independent lifeboats and hovercraft."
The UAVs were built by Austrian company Schiebel. They have a range of 108 nautical miles and can operate at up to 18,000 feet for about 10 hours at a time. Even in adverse weather conditions, they can send live footage back to the control room at the coastguard. The service is run by helicopter company Bristow Helicopters.
Russ Torbet, Director of SAR Operations for Bristow Helicopters, told the BBC: “UAV technology has advanced to the stage where its deployment significantly enhances the capability of air SAR operations, improving the reach of the service and reducing risk for the public and our crews.
"These systems provide us with an option to keep our Sikorsky S92 helicopter crew at Caernarfon on standby for lifesaving events, while the unmanned aircraft are tasked with providing safety overwatch and monitoring, which those manned aircraft would otherwise have been sent to carry out."