HM Coastguard’s first unmanned search and rescue missions undertaken in Wales – Drones Information


For the first time, unmanned aircraft are flown as security surveillance to support search and rescue operations for the HM Coastguard.

The unmanned aircraft will support search and rescue efforts in North Wales both at sea and in the mountains.

It is an operational review that may have the advantage of showing operational personnel to HM Coastguard for live situations and incidents to get the best response. The unmanned aerial vehicles operated by Bristow, the provider of the search and rescue helicopter service of HM Coastguard, will take off from Caernarfon in Wales.

They will conduct supportive security patrols on beaches from Conwy Bay to Llandudno and in Snowdonia. HM Coastguard helicopters support inland search and rescue, including the mountainous and maritime areas, and the unmanned aircraft will work alongside them. Initially, the unmanned aircraft will only be used for the HM Coastguard on weekends, with Bristow performing his routine tests during the week.

Bristow flies two Schiebel CAMCOPTER® S-100 systems after a rigorous three-month test program that began in March of this year.

This program was designed to complement the work of the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency to develop regulations that would allow UAVs to be used as SAR aircraft. Unmanned aircraft are expected to play a key role when UKSAR2G, the second generation search and rescue service, is scheduled to begin operations in 2024.

Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “We will stop at nothing to protect people on our shores and in our oceans and explore new and innovative ways to move search and rescue further into the 21st century. “Drones have the potential to help our coastguard teams save even more lives. I am delighted that we are making progress in the UK.”

Claire Hughes, Director of Her Majesty’s Coast Guard, said: “Search and rescue is about saving lives. Every second counts and every minute saved can prove the difference between life and death. This type of technology plays a big role in these moments alongside our helicopters, Coast Guard rescue teams and our partners from RNLI to independent lifeboats and hovercraft. “

Russ Torbet, Director UK Search and Rescue at Bristow Helicopters Ltd, said: “UAV technology is so advanced that its use significantly improves the ability to search and rescue aircraft, improves the range of the service and increases the risk to the public and the population is reducing our crews.

“These systems give us the ability to keep our Sikorsky S92 helicopter crew on call in Caernarfon for life-saving events, while the unmanned aircraft must perform security surveillance and surveillance that these manned aircraft would otherwise have been dispatched to perform.

“Bristow started initial tests at Schiebel in 2018 to put these UAVs into operation under the current UKSAR contract. We are proud to have successfully completed these first missions on behalf of HM Coastguard. “

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