Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER S-100 UAS (unmanned aerial system) has been selected to support search and rescue missions for the UK’s HM Coastguard in maritime and mountain environments in north Wales. This marks the first time that HM Coastguard has used unmanned aircraft for search and rescue.
Two CAMCOPTER UAS have undertaken a rigorous three-month test programme and will be operated by Bristow, who provide the HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Helicopter Service. The unmanned aircraft will launch from Caernarfon in Wales, and will support manned helicopters in safety patrols across beaches from Conwy Bay to Llandudno and inland search and rescue across Snowdonia.
This operational evaluation aims to give operations staff for HM Coastguard the benefit and experience of live situations and incidents that are suited to unmanned aircraft operations. The programme has been 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, begins operations in 2024.
Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst commented: “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.”
Russ Torbet, Director UK Search and Rescue, Bristow Helicopters Ltd, said: “UAV technology has advanced to the stage where its deployment significantly enhances the capability of air search and rescue 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.”
“Bristow began initial testing with Schiebel in 2018, with a view to bringing these UAVs into service during the current UKSAR contract. We are proud to have successfully completed these first missions on behalf of HM Coastguard.”