The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has said it will use drone technology to help aid in search and rescue (SAR) missions off Britain’s coast in the future.
The organisation hopes to utilise the tech more readily as part of a new SAR contract to be awarded in 2024, which also covers the continued provision of rescue helicopter and aeroplanes; some of which are based in Scotland.
Due to last for around 10 years, the UKSAR2G deal will cost £1.6 billion and could revolutionise the use of emerging technologies in operations off Britain’s coast.
A spokesperson from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency commented on the UK government website: “Since 2013, the UKSAR helicopter service has been delivered by Bristow helicopters ltd. From ten strategically located bases around the UK, rescuing over 4,500 people since the service started in 2015. This contract is due to finish in 2024.
“UKSAR2G is the second-generation programme that will take account of how the current UKSAR helicopter service has evolved and will seek to understand other emergency services’ requirements and needs to shape a highly collaborative and innovative solution.
“UKSAR2G will work from first principles to develop a more tailored and modern means of delivering vital search and rescue capabilities in a more cost-efficient and innovative way.”
Several types of unmanned aircraft, including the Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol vehicle, are to be added to the fleet. The Hermes can operate at altitudes of 30,000 feet, hold a maximum payload of 350kg’s and can last up to 36 hours in the air, making it well suited for search and rescue operations.
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In February of this year, the coastguard added two state-of-the-art aircraft to its fleet in a sign of the organisation stepping up use of technology in SAR.
The Beechcraft King Air B200 planes can spot a person in the water up to 40 miles away and can drop emergency locator beacons, communications and first aid equipment to those in danger.
Commercial and Programmes Director at the MCA, Damien Oliver, said: “The Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s new aircraft will enhance HM Coastguard’s existing and future search and rescue capabilities.
“These Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft are a welcome addition to the MCA’s fleet of helicopters and planes and boast state-of-the-art cameras and sensors that can detect people in the water at a considerable distance. The aircraft will also provide further assistance to other public bodies in the work that they do.”
The new aircraft are stationed at 10 bases around the UK including at Newquay, Caernarfon and Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands.