Drones could be used in search and rescue operations in Lyme Bay.

An Elbit Hermes 900 drone . Picture MCA

An Elbit Hermes 900 drone . Picture MCA - Credit: Archant

Remotely piloted aircraft could be used in search and rescue operations in Lyme Bay, if current trials prove successful.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is working on the new technology with the Civil Aviation Authority.

The MCA began its own evaluation in May 2018 with a joint challenge with the RNLI to the aviation industry and has since been laying the foundation for its future use in potentially saving lives as part of rescue operations.

Now more test flights have been carried out during the first two weeks of September using the Elbit Systems Hermes 900.

In partnership the MCA and Elbit Systems UK are exploring how the use of remotely piloted aircraft could support the work of HM Coastguard.

This is in addition to ongoing evaluations being carried out by Bristow Helicopters evaluating a remotely piloted aircraft in simulated and recently real-time search and rescue operations.

Although the Hermes 900 isn’t currently being used in live operations in the UK, it will be flying in the colours of HM Coastguard and the assessment will further add to the ongoing work around using future technology.

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As well as for search and rescue and safety overwatch, the remotely piloted aircraft could potentially be used for counter pollution work providing live video and still photographs of ongoing incidents.

Following the completion of the trial a report will be published at the end of this year which will identify the key components of work that will be required to achieve regular, routine Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) flights in any class of airspace in the future.

The MCA will work closely with other government departments and agencies to share selected report contents and information regarding the outcome of the trials..

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Drones have the potential to help us in so many aspects of our lives. From search and rescue missions, to delivering critical medicines – we’re exploring how this new technology could revolutionise our emergency responses.

Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: “Remotely piloted aircraft continue to be a big part of the work both to potentially save lives and protect our beautiful coastlines from the worst effects of pollution.”