The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is inviting companies within the UAV industry to provide drone technology as part of a new trial to reduce the cost of search and rescue operations.
The £1m tender is designed to provide a quicker and cheaper alternative to helicopters in the form of a network of drones stationed along the coast.
UAVs will be expected to patrol an area up to 11 miles from the coastline and will be primarily used in search and rescue, although pollution control will be another focus.
The location for the trial has not been decided but UAVs will be expected to remain airborne for more than three hours.
According to reports, more than £18m has been penned for drone technology to be used around the UK coastline following the trial.
There is scope for the technology to be used by other departments such as Border Force to spot crafts carrying illegal migrants towards the UK’s shores from the continent.
There are concerns that the need to fly drones beyond-the-line of sight may hamper efforts to roll out the technology on a large scale. Last week, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the first drone flight beyond-the-line-of-sight, making a leap towards the further integration of drones into everyday life.
The MCA’s contract will be awarded in October and is expected to run until March 2021. Details on how to apply can be found HERE. The application deadline is 12 August.
The agency told The Times that helicopters will still be used by coastguards but said drones would “improve the speed of response, reduce costs and perform automated functions which would add to search coverage”.
A spokeswoman told the newspaper that the MCA wants to “unlock drones’ potential”.