SAR drone first over North Wales

The unmanned aircraft will be supporting search and rescue response in north Wales The unmanned aircraft will be supporting search and rescue response in north Wales

The first weekend in August 2020 has marked an important milestone in Search and Rescue as an unmanned aircraft was flown as safety overwatch for the first time.

The unmanned aircraft supported search and rescue response in north Wales both in maritime and in the mountains.

It is an operational trial and will potentially have the benefits of showing operations staff for HM Coastguard live situations and incidents to provide the best response.

Operated by Bristow, provider of the HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Helicopter Service, the unmanned aerial vehicles launched from Caernarfon in Wales.

They provided supporting safety patrols across beaches from Conwy Bay to Llandudno and across Snowdonia.

HM Coastguard’s helicopters provide support for inland search and rescue which includes the mountain regions, as well in maritime environment and the unmanned aircraft will work alongside those.

Initially, the unmanned aircraft will operate only at weekends for HM Coastguard with Bristow carrying on its routine testing during the week.

Bristow is flying two Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100 systems, following a rigorous, three month test programme which began in March this year.

That programme was designed to complement work being carried out by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to develop regulations under which UAVs can operate as SAR aircraft. Unmanned aircraft are expected to play a key role when UKSAR2G, the second-generation of search and rescue service due to begin operations in 2024.

Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “We will stop at nothing to keep people safe on our shores and in our seas, exploring new and innovative ways to further bring search and rescue into the 21st century.

“Drones have the potential to help our coastguard teams help save even more lives so I’m excited we’re pioneering these advances in the UK.”

Director of Her Majesty’s Coastguard, Claire Hughes said: “Search and rescue 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.”

By Jake Frith

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