Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency to trial use of drones when searching for people lost at sea

Post Thumbnail

The use of drones to search for people lost at sea is to be tested by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Bosses at the MCA have stressed that the aerial devices will not replace helicopters or lifeboats.

But it is planned that a network of small unmanned devices will eventually be stationed on the coastline to provide a rapid response unit that will be quicker and cheaper to deploy than aircraft.

The agency said a £1 million trial of the technology would be launched by the end of the year with a view to expanding its use early into the next decade.

As part of the trial, drones would be expected to patrol an area up to 11 miles off the coast, focusing primarily on search and rescue and pollution control operations.

The devices could be manually operated or run in automated mode, the MCA said.

A document published by the agency said that other government departments may also use the technology, including the Border Force.

It suggests that drones could also be used to spot boats being used to illegally carry migrants to the UK from France and Belgium.

However, the technology is likely to prove difficult to implement on a large scale because of the dangers of using drones beyond the line of sight of their human operator.

It is against the law to fly drones out of sight in busy airspace shared by passenger planes and other aircraft.

The MCA has published a document inviting companies to tender for a £990,000 trial of drone technology.

>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter

The contract will be awarded in October and a trial is expected to run until autumn next year.

The agency said that at least one drone would initially be employed, with the location of the trial yet to be decided.

It said that a search area of up to 11.5 miles would be used, with drones expected to be able to remain in the skies for more than three hours.

The government has set aside £18.3 million for the future deployment of drone technology around the coastline after the trial.

The MCA insisted that helicopters would be retained but using drones would “improve the speed of response, reduce costs and perform automated functions which would add to search coverage”.

A spokeswoman said: “We see a role for drones in the work that we do. Our ambition is to unlock drones’ potential.”

After a small scale trial in Wales earlier this year, 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.

“There is significant evidence emerging from our overseas counterparts and more locally from UK mountain rescue teams indicating that drones can play a crucial role in emergency response.

“With this in mind, we welcome the opportunity to take part in these emerging trials to test the viability of drone technology with other rescue resources.”

He added: “It’s too early to comment on how we will move forward from the trials but one thing we all agree on is that drones cannot replace helicopters, coastguard rescue teams or lifeboats.

“It is, however, entirely possible that they could be an additional tool to use in search and rescue.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in