The 12-month pilot, which began earlier this week, is taking place thanks to a partnership between Essex Police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
"Drones will allow rescuers to make more informed decisions and ultimately help make the coast safer – particularly as the busy season is now almost upon us," says the MCA
The drones will help coastguard rescue teams with operations around the county’s coastline, arming life-savers with valuable situational awareness - from finding missing people to risk-assessing potentially dangerous scenarios before sending the crew into action.
Essex Police has a thriving drone department, with 65 pilots and 20 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle). Among its fleet, the police have a range of DJI drones - such as the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual and Inspire aircraft - supplied by North East-based UAV expert Heliguy.
Essex Police has scaled its drone division with help from Heliguy, which has supplied various equipment and provided expertise
The team has found the recently-released Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual very useful, as it is lightweight, easily deployable and comes with thermal capabilities and accessories such as a spotlight - ideal for search operations.
Over the years, Essex Police has harnessed the power of drones to fight crime and keep communities safe, but this offshore trial will provide a new dimension of work.
At the end of the pilot study, the impact the drones have had on coastal search and rescue activity in the region will be assessed. That information will help inform the ongoing work to explore the role that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can play in future search and rescue activity.
"Our drone team will assist both organisations - whether this is by providing a live view of the county’s coast, investigating suspicious behaviour, responding to welfare concerns or searching for a missing person," says Essex Police
Coastguard teams from Southend and Canvey will be taking part in the trial, supported by a range of inshore and all-weather lifeboats and hovercraft strategically located at six RNLI lifeboat stations along that stretch of the Essex coastline.
Drones 'will be extremely useful'
Phil Hanson, Aviation Technical Assurance Manager at the MCA, said: “This will allow rescuers to make more informed decisions and ultimately help make the coast safer – particularly as the busy season is now almost upon us.
“Drones will not replace our Coastguard helicopters, Coastguard Rescue Teams, RNLI or independent lifeboats,” he continued. “However, it is entirely possible that they could be an additional tool to use in search and rescue and enhance our existing capabilities.”
Will Roberts, Senior Innovation Manager at the RNLI, said: “The increased situational awareness that drones provide could play a significant role in helping us locate casualties as quickly as possible. When lives are at risk, the speed at which our crews can locate and reach a casualty is vital. Being able to see the impact that drones can have in helping our lifeboat crews search and then reach casualties through this pilot will be extremely useful.
“As well as helping our lifesavers to search and locate casualties, working with Essex Police’s Drone Unit will also allow potentially dangerous scenes to be risk assessed before our volunteer lifeboat crews are deployed to the scene.”
“The increased situational awareness that drones provide could play a significant role in helping us locate casualties as quickly as possible," says the RNLI
Perran Bonner, Essex Police Drone Manager, said: “Our drone team will be available to assist both organisations in their endeavours, whether this is by providing a live view of the county’s coast, investigating suspicious behaviour, responding to welfare concerns or searching for a missing person.
"The expertise of our officers means that we can provide accurate and up-to-date information to the relevant people, ensuring that a quick and appropriate response can be taken, that residents and visitors are kept safe and anyone using our coastline to commit crime is brought to justice.”
Showcasing Drone Operations
Essex Police, along with Lincolnshire Police, spoke about their drone operations at this year's Commercial UAV Expo Europe, in The Netherlands.
Perran Bonner, from Essex, as well as Special Sergeant Kevin Taylor, chief drone pilot of Lincolnshire Police, said that the event went well and they were delighted to showcase the work of the drone teams to a global audience.
Award-winning Heliguy provides drone and ancillary equipment, as well as expert advice and support, to a large number of UK police forces and public-safety organisations, plus a range of other industry sectors. Our clients include Greater Manchester Police, Balfour Beatty, Northern Powergrid, the James Hutton Institute and the BBC. If you would like us to support your enterprise operations with a comprehensive service, contact us by giving us a call or sending us an email, or visit our dedicated commercial drone web page.