Drone technology aids training for Margate’s RNLI lifeboat crew

Lifeboats News Release

Volunteer crew members at Margate’s RNLI lifeboat station are employing drone technology to record video footage and stills of the Thanet coastline as an innovative and cost-effective training aid.

Margate harbour and Marine Sands (RNLI Margate)

RNLI Margate

Margate harbour and Marine Sands (RNLI Margate)

When Nick Smith, Deputy Launching Authority at Margate lifeboat station acquired an entry-level drone to enhance his interest in photography, he quickly identified an opportunity to use the technology as an aid for training the lifeboat crew in the important area of coast recognition.

As Nick explains: “The drone’s camera records to a very high quality and when flown low over the water can capture the view the crew would get from the lifeboat. By slowly climbing and panning, dangers and obstructions not otherwise easily visible can be revealed.”

Margate RNLI’s area of operation includes around nine miles of Thanet's coastline from Reculver Towers to Joss Bay including numerous bays and dozens of concrete groynes, the seabed itself is a mix of chalk rock ledges with deep gullies and flat sandy beaches. In short, the coast is littered with obstructions that particularly at night and in bad weather can present significant dangers for the crews when an incident requires them to operate close inshore.

Coast recognition is an important part of routine training but is time consuming and uses precious fuel resources when carried out afloat. By producing both stills and video the lifeboat crew can study the area in detail from the comfort of the crew training room or even at home.

The RNLI has strict guidelines for the use of drone which were adhered to but compiling the package was not straight forward as Nick explains: “It was important to capture the scene at low water spring tides when the greatest amount of foreshore and hazards are visible. In Thanet this meant a two-hour window at around 6am and 6pm for just a few days twice a month so the long summer days were the only opportunity really”.

Paul Hodson, Lifeboat Operations Manager Margate RNLI said: “Coast recognition from the inshore lifeboat is weather dependent and time consuming not to mention the fuel used. Seeing the coast for real is still important of course and continues to be part of the afloat training but particularly on a dark stormy winter’s evening this will allow an important area of refresher training to continue from the safety and comfort of dry land enhancing just one element of the intensive training volunteer lifeboat crews have to undertake.”


RNLI Media contacts

· Peter Barker, RNLI Margate Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer 07974 064304 [email protected]

· Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (SouthEast), 0207 6207416, 07786 668825 [email protected]

· For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Nick Smith, Deputy Launching Authority, Margate Lifeboat (RNLI Margate)

RNLI Margate

Nick Smith, Deputy Launching Authority, Margate Lifeboat (RNLI Margate)

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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