UAVE Limited has announced that it has supported a special week-long event run by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) to test the use of drones. Along a stretch of South Wales coastline, a selection of drones were used in four different search and rescue scenarios to explore how they could be used to help save lives in the future.
The scenarios tested were a shoreline search for a casualty, an offshore search for multiple casualties in the sea, a mud rescue and a communications relay where a drone is required to relay information between rescue teams and a casualty on a cliff.
During the event, there was a particular focus on seeing how drones could work together with existing search and rescue teams and assets to enhance lifesaving capability and reduce risk to rescue teams, with RNLI lifeboats and HM Coastguard Rescue Teams featuring in the event’s scenarios.
UAVE Limited supported the event by completing a demonstration flight using BVLOS from St Athan with the fixed-wing Prion Mk3 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The Prion Mk3 payload can be modified with specialist equipment to carry out the necessary tasks. For search and rescue missions UAVE integrated the UAV Vision CM100 imaging payload.
Kyly Phillips from UAVE Limited said: “This has been a fantastic event to be a part of. During the lead up to this event we flew the Prion Mk3 out to Cardigan Bay from West Wales Airfield to gain familiarity with the task ahead. It was great to work alongside the RNLI and MCA teams and prepare the Prion Mk3 for its first search and rescue mission. As a conclusion from this event we believe that the Prion Mk3 would be a huge aid in the search and rescue field, reducing the time it would usually take to identify someone stranded in the sea and re-lay in real time the exact co-ordinates to the rescue boat.”
Hannah Nobbs, from the RNLI’s Innovation Team, said: “The aim of this event was to provide realistic scenarios and an authentic operating environment to explore the use of drones in multi-agency operations.
“This week-long test event is the culmination of around two years of work, where we’ve explored the use of drones in collaboration with key search and rescue partners and industry experts. I’d like to thank all of the industry partners that have supported our work to explore the use of drones in search and rescue activity so far. Their expert input has been extremely valuable.”
Phil Hanson, Aviation Technical Assurance Manager at the MCA, said: “The MCA is always ready to embrace working with new technology – especially if that technology could enhance search and rescue efficiency, save more lives and reduce risk to our personnel.”
A variety of drones were used in the scenarios during the event, including rotary platforms that offer stability for electro-optic and thermal sensor payloads, a tethered drone and fixed wing platforms that are runway or catapult launched.
The vast amount of information and insights gained from this week-long test event will now be evaluated by the RNLI and the MCA to help assess how drones could be used in search and rescue activity in the future.