The developing role of unmanned systems in airborne search and rescue operations
The demand for global trade has increased ship traffic across the world’s oceans by 300% in the past 20 years but maritime search and rescue capacity has remained stable. The result has been an increase in the number of maritime SAR incidents and its vital now, more than ever before, that the SAR community examines how modern technology can help agencies respond quicker to save lives.
However, there is also a drive to conduct operations in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. Aerial search using helicopters, according to the UK Maritime Coast Guard agency, costs over £8,500 an hour, with flying time constrained by fuel limitations. Traditional life boats can be used at the same time but will cover a smaller search zone than aerial capabilities.
With this in mind there is little surprise SAR professionals are increasingly looking to UAVs to solve these key issues. UAVs, with their previous success in military and civil operations, could provide a 24-hour search capability allowing crews to reach rescue zones quicker, coordinate responses and ensure accurate communication across multiple agencies. Markku Mylly, Executive Director, European Maritime Safety Agency, will be present to the SAR community during Maritime Search and Rescue 2018 how aerial surveillance can be enhanced by using UAVs integrated with sensor technology.
Speaking to the organisers ahead of the conference, Markku commented:
“I am going to explain how EMSA can support national SAR authorities in their actions in SAR cases and will have some practical examples how EMSA has been successfully supported national authorities in operations.”
This will be a key session for the community to attend during the Airborne Assistance in SAR Operations focus day, which precedes the main 2-day conference.
Maritime search and rescue agencies require UAVs which have been modified to fit their exact requirements. Early adopters have found difficulty in ensuring the communications between UAVs and manned systems can be integrated to work in tandem during operations.
Given the success in which military and civil agencies have used UAVs in the past SAR agencies have spent considerable time examining the potential of using unmanned systems in operations.
Markku went on to explain:
“In complex maritime environment rapid action and correct actions are needed in SAR incidents. We have to be able to collaborate with all relevant authorities and actors to utilize all possible data available linked to incidents to maximize the correct rescue actions successfully.”
Unmanned systems are a point of conversation for every SAR organisation around the world, with research projects, evaluation studies and testing phases already underway.
The Airborne Assistance in SAR Operations focus day will additionally an opening keynote address from Rear Admiral Philip Kenul, Senior Vice President of Aviation and Operations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration UAS Program, as well as presentations from; US Coast Guard, UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency, Transport Canada, Croatian Ministry of Maritime Affairs.
Maritime Search and Rescue 2018, chaired by Chris Reynolds, Director, Irish Coast Guard and supported by the Finnish Border Guard, will bring all the key discussion points together to enable the SAR community to share, learn and understand how unmanned systems can be used in future airborne operations.