The UK's first trial of a new search and rescue drone is taking place in North Wales.
Bristow Search and Rescue, the provider of the HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter service, is working with Schiebel Group to test unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for life-saving operations in maritime and land environments at Caernarfon Airport.
They say the airport in Gwynedd offers a "dynamic operational area" for testing of the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 system, as it's near mountainous and maritime environments and is close to RAF Valley , which offers a complex airspace environment.
Capable of travelling 200 kilometres from its home base, the S-100 is flown by a pilot in a remote location using digital control and imaging technology to allow them to see through the eyes of its on-board cameras.
The Camcopter S-100 is already used extensively around the world in land and maritime environments, by international agencies such as the European Maritime Safety Agency.
The trial is complementary to the work by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to develop regulations under which UAVs can operate in a range of scenarios where the pilot cannot see the aircraft and where other aircraft are operating.
Alan Corbett, chief executive of Bristow Helicopters Ltd, said: "This trial allows us to carry out demanding evaluation of the aircraft, the broader system capability and future suitability as an evolutionary step beyond the current helicopter-focused approach to search and rescue missions.
Schiebel’s technology has already been operationally proven globally. Integrating unmanned aircraft with our current capability is the logical next stage in the development of search in support of rescue activities.
"Our teams have undertaken significant training and testing of these aircraft in less active environments.
"The opportunity to evaluate the platform, safely integrating with different types of air traffic found at and around Caernarfon , while accessing mountain and maritime operating environments, allows us to prove their potential for operational public service."
Neil Hunter, business development director at Schiebel Group, said: "In total, we have collected more than 82,000 flight hours so far and we’re looking forward to demonstrating the full range of our capabilities to Bristow in the UK."
Roy Steptoe, managing director at Caernarfon Airport , said: "Without doubt, unmanned aircraft are the way of the future.
credit: Eryl Crump, Daily Post