UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency tests unmannned drone for search and rescue operations


Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 unmanned drone has successfully completed a series of flight demonstrations for the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The flights were run by theMaritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to test the capabilities of using a long-range unmanned drone to enhance its Search and Rescue (SaR) capabilities in civilian airspace.

The test flights were conducted off the West Coast of Wales over the first two weeks of September. The Hermes 900 was able to fly advanced Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) missions into unsegregated and uncontrolled airspace, in full alignment with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations.

The success of these trials is a significant step forward in enhancing the capabilities of the MCA as they seek to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its search and rescue operations while reducing the risk to  personnel in the field.

During the flights  the Hermes 900 was equipped with SaR-specific radar, an automatic identification system, EO/IR (electro-optical/infra-red) payload, an emergency position-indicating radio beacon and full satellite communications. It was deployed on a range of missions that simulated shore-line rescues, water rescues in dangerous air space and long-distance ship rescues which crossed international airspace lines.

With a wingspan of 15m, the 1.2 ton, the Hermes 900 is already being used by more than a dozen  customers around the globe to provide search, rescue and reconnaissance capabilities.

Martin Fausset, CEO of Elbit Systems UK said, “The Hermes 900 is perfectly equipped to deal with the needs of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and we are proud to be able to support them as they continue with their vital, life-saving work.”

Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said, “We continue to do all we can to use existing technology as well as look to the future in our ongoing work of saving lives at sea. Remotely piloted aircraft continue to be a big part of that work both to potentially save lives in search and rescue and protect our beautiful coastlines from the worst effects of pollution.”

Elbit recently launched a version of the Hermes 900 unmanned drone which carries inflated life-rafts for detection, identification and saving the lives of survivors at sea that has already been delivered to an undisclosed customer in South-East Asia.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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