EXCLUSIVE: Skybound Rescuer’s Gemma Alcock on her drone journey


Gemma Alcock, founder and CEO of Skybound Rescuer, has given CDP insight into her route into the drone market.

Also director of Air Operations for Lowland Rescue, as part of the May Special Report on Emergency Services, Alcock gave detail of experience and statistics that have guided her to the position she is in today.

She explained: “My journey into the drone world was very much research-led. For my dissertation project at Bournemouth University in 2014 I had to choose an industry or organisation to research to find areas in which they struggle; to subsequently define that problem then solve it with a product design together with a business case for the solution.

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“As a proud and passionate RNLI beach lifeguard myself, I decided to work with the RNLI and solve a problem they faced. I found that the RNLI really struggle to find people in darkness, it takes them 3 to 4 times longer to find someone in darkness than it does in daylight if all other conditions were the same.”

Adding: “This could be the difference between life and death, and as such the UK Coastguard has to task 3 to 4 times the amount of assets to cover the search area to ensure that the probability of detection is similar to a daylight search.”

Alcock continued: “Furthermore, between 25-40% of the RNLI’s annual searches were conducted in darkness – that’s 1000s of searches every year. This became the problem that I set out to address.

“After interviewing a large number of lifeboat crewmen/women and lifeboat crew trainers, it became overwhelming clear that the asset that helped them the most during these nighttime searches was the Her Majesty’s Coastguard (HMCG) helicopter services, because of the higher height of eye advantage that the helicopters could offer and the specialist payload sensors that the helicopters carry.

“However, at the point in time of this research, the average time from being requested to being airborne for taskings during the night is 40 minutes – and that is before they have transited to the search area to commence a search pattern.

“Within search and rescue (SAR) there is a concept called the “golden hour” – that is 1 hour to find the casualty and deliver them to definitive care for the best chances of survival. “

She concluded: “The HMCG helicopter service were missing this window of opportunity during nighttime searches. I wanted to give the benefits of the helicopters (i.e. higher height of eye advantage and specialist sensors) to the lifeboat crews but instantly, ergo the project became drone focused.”

Tags : Emergency ServicesGemma AlcockLowland RescueSkybound Rescuer
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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