Exploring Drones for Emergency Rescue Operations

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  • Drones could provide aerial surveillance support to lifeboat crew.
  • Bidders are being asked to declare how their aircraft would operate in low-light conditions.

The UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) is seeking to use drones to aid emergency rescue operations and carry out surveillance of ships off the south-west coast of England, reports BBC News.

Bidders for the contract

The agency has invited specialists to bid for a £990,000 contract before a deadline of 19 August.

As per the contract, unmanned aircraft could help cut costs and become more efficient. But it acknowledges that rules would need to be made simple for regular flights beyond an operator’s line-of-sight.

Interested parties have to detail their ability to search for a reported missing person or vessel up to 6.2 miles (10km) away from shore in low-light, misty and/or windy conditions.

The concept is to transmit information that could then be used by helicopter or lifeboat rescue crews.

Prospective applications

A tender document says that other potential uses include –

  • Tracking the amount of pollution that vessels are leaking into the water,
  • Providing support to law enforcement and other agencies that track activity in and around the English Channel from the sky.

Automation of drone missions

While the drone missions are likely to be human-controlled to begin with, the aspiration is that at least some of the activities could be automated over time. The Times reported that the contract would be awarded in October with the trial due to last until autumn 2020.

Simulated people rescue

But this is not the first time that the MCA has explored the use of drones.

Last year it teamed up with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to carry out a five-day exercise at St Athan, south Wales, where they simulated use of the aircraft in rescuing people from the sea and dealing with a mud rescue.

The agency also partnered with a police drone unit to carry out a year-long trial that started in May around Essex’s coastline.

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Source: BBC News

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