RNLI and Maritime & Coastguard Agency carry out drone tests

image captionDrones are being tested in different scenarios during the five-day exercise

Drones are being trialled in south Wales to see if they could help rescue people lost at sea.

The RNLI and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) are carrying out a series of tests at St Athan over five days, from 23 to 27 April.

Scenarios being tested include shoreline searches and mud rescues.

Phil Hanson, Aviation Technical Assurance Manager at the MCA, said drones could play "a crucial role" but would not replace existing methods.

He said: "It's too early to comment on how we will move forward from the trials, but one thing we all agree on is that drones cannot replace helicopters, coastguard rescue teams or lifeboats.

image captionScenarios tested include an offshore search for multiple casualties in the sea

"However, it is entirely possible that they could be an additional tool to use in search and rescue."

According to the RNLI, about 190 people lose their lives on UK and Irish coasts every year.

Drone technology has already proved useful in natural disasters - giving rescuers a bird's view of the area.

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Hannah Nobbs, of the RNLI, said the week-long test was the culmination of two year's work.

She added: "The RNLI has a proud history of embracing new technology - from cork lifejackets in the 1800s to the design and build of our waterjet-propelled Shannon class lifeboat.

"So it's very exciting for us to now explore the potential use of drones in search and rescue activity."

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