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RNLI to use drones for rescue missions

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is trialling the use of drones in search and rescue operations.

Last week, the RNLI and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have been inviting people to their offices to witness firsthand how drones can be used in search and rescue missions across the UK coasts.

The organisations hope that drones will be able to locate stranded individuals in need of rescue and alert life-saving boat crews faster than it would take the stranded people to call for help using their boat's radio - especially if they have been left without a vessel.

Hannah Nobbs, who's leading the RNLI's work with drones, said in a statement: "Where we have a gap in capability is searching for very small targets in the water. When it's just a person - they're not a canoe, or a vessel - they're very difficult to find.

"We're interested not just in somebody turning up with a drone and flying that drone out to something, we want to look at how can you integrate this stuff into our systems."

Hannah noted that in the case of using a drone out at see, it will be down to a maritime controller and an air controller to coordinate activities and bring vital information back to the coastguard.

She added: "All of the drones, really, are just a way of getting information to people. Part of the challenge is to feed information back to them to help them make decisions about where they're sending the boat or the coast rescue teams."

The RNLI are also reportedly trialling the transfer of equipment in mud rescue operations, but Hannah claims that isn't their main focus right now.

She said: "It's of quite localised benefit, and there's a lot more that can be done with this technology ... We want to start from the point that you can't assume that the casualty can help themselves. So we're looking at getting to people that are in very grave need of our help."

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