Searches boost case for upgraded Clare Civil Defence drone

ALL-WEATHER drone facilities are to be sought by the council in 2022 in a bid to boost the search and rescue capabilities of the Civil Defence, writes Fiona McGarry.

The news was revealed following a call from Mayor of Clare, Councillor PJ Ryan, for enhanced drone equipment, with infrared and all-weather facilities.

The Cathaoirleach told the December meeting of Clare County Council, “This motion came about after I read recently in some of the national and local papers, about two successful searches which took place recently in Clare.”

“I also visited the Civil Defence Headquarters on the Quin Road and spoke to some of the members and I went in just to see what the drone was like, and they told me, it was fantastic. But there was a problem with it, that it didn’t operate in wind or in the dark. So I asked to know, was there a possibility that an attachment could be got for it, but I believe that it has to be replaced.”

Councillor Ryan thanked Chief Fire Officer, Adrian Kelly, for his reply. The response gave details of the successful missions in October.

“Clare Civil Defence completed two successful search and rescue operations that were tasked by An Garda Síochána, with both operations involving persons that became trapped and disorientated in isolated areas on the outskirts of Ennis,” Mr Kelly’s reply stated.

“Using their current drone, which has many innovative features including a Thermal Imaging Camera, Civil Defence volunteers were quickly able to locate the missing persons, and guiding search personnel to the exact location allowing for the safe and effective rescues.”

Councillor Kelly noted the cost of the drones, at €30,000, but said that if they saved lives they would be worth it.

There was widespread support for the motion. It was seconded by Councillor Mary Howard who said she had been at the Civil Defence HQ along with the Mayor to meet Junior Minister Peter Burke in recent weeks. She noted that one of the missing persons had left a nursing home and had been located through the use of a drone.

“In my book, that’s priceless,” she said. “You just can’t put a cost on that.”

Cross party support came from Fianna Fáil’s Councillor Alan O’Callaghan. “It’s something I think that should be fast forwarded: the use of dronage,” he said.

“I saw in a city in Sweden, two or three years ago that defibrillators are delivered by drones and dropped in two or three minutes. The uses of drones has massively improved over the last number of years. You often hear about people going through lands looking for missing people and you hear now about drones being able to do this.”

Councillor Johnny Flynn said that, previously, heat-sensing cameras were used at the scene of major incidents. “People can wander off and can be suffering from concussion a distance away,” he said, drawing on his own experience as a Chief Fire Officer in Limerick. “I think the report of the two rescues was fantastic news. With the proper equipment, we do have the personnel in Civil Defence to use them very efficiently.”

Councillor Pat McMahon said the motion showed the Mayor is “ahead of the curve”. “Modern technology, especially drones, has moved on in a huge way,” he said. “The range of uses of drones is mind-boggling.”

Councillor John Crowe agreed that “drones are the way forward”, and gave his backing to the motion.

The Chief Fire Officer’s reply outlined the activities of the 85 volunteers Clare Civil Defence, which include the pandemic response as well as emergency medical assistance and search and rescue services. It added that a business case will be made early this year for the new enhanced, all-weather drone.

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