Lifeboat service to use donated drones to help rescue people at sea

The company has partnered with Saatchi & Saatchi London to donate a fleet of waterproof drones to a Norfolk lifeboat service

Direct Line and Saatchi & Saatchi London have formed the first partnership making use of its pioneering Fleetlights drone technology and donated a fleet of waterproofed drones to the Caister Lifeboat service.

The Norfolk service will use a network of Fleetlights drones equipped with high-powered lights and high-definition cameras to perform semi-autonomous flights, helping lifeboat crews to spot people stranded at sea.

Saatchi & Saatchi filmed the fleet's inaugural flight earlier this week, with the drones lighting up the sea in a 10-mile radius from the lifeboat.

Each mobile-controlled drone uses "mesh networking" tech, which helps operators spot people who would otherwise be easy to miss. At night, the technology can help rescuers see further than they usually could thanks to the high-powered lights.

After conversations with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and HM Coastguard, Direct Line decided that Caister would be the first to benefit from the technology, given its distance from helicopter support.

The drones will be used in searches ahead of a potential national roll-out.

Paul Garrod, chairman of the Caister Lifeboat, said: "In the past, there have been instances where we have been unsuccessful when searching for someone in need of help. Perhaps if we had been equipped with the drone technology, these searches would have had a positive outcome."

Mark Evans, Direct Line’s marketing director, added: "We deliberately created the Fleetlights code on an open-source basis in the hope that this would help us to accelerate. Now that we are using the technology to develop the drones for sea rescue it has happened much faster than anticipated."

This article first appeared in Campaign

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