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The future of UK SAR, post SAR-H

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The future of UK SAR, post SAR-H

Old 13th Aug 2020, 14:31
  #1341 (permalink)  
 
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Roger - I'm not a doomsayer, simply one who has spent many years carrying out many searches, from Wessex with no sensors but the Mk 1 eyeball to the Sea King with a FLIR/TV turret and an autopilot that could fly the aircraft around a search area (Mk3A).

Inevitably, technology improves the quality of the sensors used but the SAR helos will have the best available anyway with the added benefit of having human beings to interpret and investigate sightings immediately.

There may be one search in a couple of hundred where a drone may be of limited additional use - unless you want to use the drone instead of a helicopter to be able to say you have 'searched' an area and tick it off the list.

Far better to invest the money in improving the search planning programs so they can produce more accurate, smaller and more precise search boxes rather than the blunderbuss approach often used at the moment. I lost count of the number of times the CG computer created massive search areas that were so improbable and easily disproven by assets on scene. Will the UAVs be able to make decisions to amend the search area based on the actual (rather than predicted) conditions on scene, local knowledge of tides and races etc?

I like new technology but UAVs are not new, the sensors they will use are not new and I would far rather have one more helicopter to search with than several UAVs.

Just because it looks new and shiny and AI is the new religion for techno investors, doesn't make this a good or practical idea.

We used to have Sea KIngs with a phenomenal radar that could detect a periscope in the water (or fins of dolphins and whales as I have seen before) - this was replaced with a lesser system because 360 radar was old fashioned and dinosaurs like me had to move on.......
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Old 13th Aug 2020, 15:01
  #1342 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by [email protected]
Will the UAVs be able to make decisions to amend the search area based on the actual (rather than predicted) conditions on scene, local knowledge of tides and races etc?

Just because it looks new and shiny and AI is the new religion for techno investors, doesn't make this a good or practical idea.
The UAVs are operated by humans with downlink. Trained operators, maybe even pilots, perhaps with much SAR experience but sitting in an environment with a bigger capacity seat than a helicopter.

The technology has been used to search for humans for a while now, difference being most of them didnít want to be found because they ended up getting lifted or waxed.
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Old 13th Aug 2020, 19:49
  #1343 (permalink)  
 
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The UAVs are operated by humans with downlink. Trained operators, maybe even pilots, perhaps with much SAR experience but sitting in an environment with a bigger capacity seat than a helicopter.

The technology has been used to search for humans for a while now, difference being most of them didnít want to be found because they ended up getting lifted or waxed.
I'm not dismissing the operator training, nor the fact that you can detect people with the technology - I mentioned earlier that I did the first RAF SAR job with the FLIR systems turret and have been repeatedly impressed by its capability.

My point is that with one sensor on a UAV (FLIR/TV turret I am surmising), you are only able to search what the camera can see (whether in autoscan or manual) and, just like a helicopter, the height and speed will have to be adjusted (along with the track spacing) to match the conditions to what you are searching for.

The flexibility of a helicopter vs a UAV is the ability to slow down and go down to investigate possible sightings - a regular part of any search - all the technology and operator training won't match that

A well trained person in a comfy chair miles from the scene will never be as effective as the same person in a helicopter cockpit or cabin actually on scene.

But someone will see a shiny toy and potential cost savings, buy it and then leave it in the hangar because it can't do what is promised.
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Old 13th Aug 2020, 20:22
  #1344 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by [email protected]
My point is that with one sensor on a UAV (FLIR/TV turret I am surmising), you are only able to search what the camera can see (whether in autoscan or manual) and, just like a helicopter, the height and speed will have to be adjusted (along with the track spacing) to match the conditions to what you are searching for.
So we agree it can provide the same as a manned RW platform operating IMC with a sensor suite.

Originally Posted by [email protected]
The flexibility of a helicopter vs a UAV is the ability to slow down and go down to investigate possible sightings - a regular part of any search - all the technology and operator training won't match that
The Camcopter trialed by Bristows/HMCG is a RW platform.

Originally Posted by [email protected]
A well trained person in a comfy chair miles from the scene will never be as effective as the same person in a helicopter cockpit or cabin actually on scene
I have to disagree. People sat in air conditioned boxes in Creech/Bastion have saved the lives of myself and my colleagues in the past. Just because itís one sensor with multiple overlays, doesnít mean itís only one set of eyes. The human factor of one person scanning an area and finding nothing does not mean there is nothing there.

I used to be like you Crab, always believed in boots on the ground. Then I remembered that ďtools in the toolboxĒ quote and integrated it into the plan rather than just having them on station because they were on the ATO (although UAV operators didnít tend to gob off as much as manned ISTAR when they were left in the wheel at 10k). It complimented the other assets, but if there was something dodgy going on in two places and I only had one pair of jets/helis, then I tasked UAVs, both big ones with bombs and little hand thrown ones with a camera straight off a 2004 Nokia phone to go and check it out and that further developed the plan. Things that would not have been achieved as quickly with only a manned heli on station no matter how many pairs of eyes were looking out the windows.

But, at the end of the day, you canít argue tactics and we both have our operational experiences to back our leanings so doubt we will ever agree on this one
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Old 13th Aug 2020, 20:53
  #1345 (permalink)  
 
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So we agree it can provide the same as a manned RW platform operating IMC with a sensor suite.
You are not going to be searchin for much IMC - you do know FLIR doesn't see through cloud and fog?

If the RW Camcopter is the answer, what is its range, speed and endurance?

Don't conflate the clear success of UAVs in the war-fighting role with the very different conditions (and very varied terrain and weather) of SAR searches.
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Old 13th Aug 2020, 21:03
  #1346 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by [email protected]
You are not going to be searchin for much IMC - you do know FLIR doesn't see through cloud and fog?
So why is it used for flying through low vis conditions?

Originally Posted by [email protected]
If the RW Camcopter is the answer, what is its range, speed and endurance?
Took me 1 minute to find that out on their website.

Originally Posted by [email protected]
Don't conflate the clear success of UAVs in the war-fighting role with the very different conditions (and very varied terrain and weather) of SAR searches.
Varied terrain and weather conditions? Yes, Afghanistan had those too.

Like I said, you have your views, I have mine.
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Old 13th Aug 2020, 22:16
  #1347 (permalink)  
 
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So why is it used for flying through low vis conditions?
not when that low vis is due to cloud, fog or rain - pretty standard searching conditions for UKSAR. IR sensors need thermal contrast to see differences is radiated energy - if what you are looking for is effectively the same temperature as the background you won't see it. Water vapour massively attenuates thermal contrast. You must have been briefed on thermal crossover in Afghan.

Took me 1 minute to find that out on their website.
you miss my point - this is being touted as an asset for searching large areas of Sea - range and endurance become very important.

Varied terrain and weather conditions? Yes, Afghanistan had those too.
Remind me just how much sea Afghanistan has again????? Just because the technology works against ground targets in Afghan doesn't make it a must have for UKSAR.

People who want to argue the validity of this system in UKSAR need at least to have tried searching over land and sea, day and night and in poor weather beforehand.

Searching to kill is not the same game as searching to rescue.
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Old 13th Aug 2020, 22:59
  #1348 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by [email protected]
not when that low vis is due to cloud, fog or rain - pretty standard searching conditions for UKSAR. IR sensors need thermal contrast to see differences is radiated energy - if what you are looking for is effectively the same temperature as the background you won't see it. Water vapour massively attenuates thermal contrast. You must have been briefed on thermal crossover in Afghan.
Yes, and as a pilot using sensors in temperate environments. It’s still better (edit: in many situations) than the eyeball in skoshie conditions.
Originally Posted by [email protected]
you miss my point - this is being touted as an asset for searching large areas of Sea - range and endurance become very important.
There are UAVs with endurance and range that far exceed anything a helicopter can achieve without AAR.

Originally Posted by [email protected]
Remind me just how much sea Afghanistan has again????? Just because the technology works against ground targets in Afghan doesn't make it a must have for UKSAR.
Is UK SAR restricted to maritime only? Look how many call outs there have been in the ginners weather the UK has had recently. Tools in the toolbox again.
Originally Posted by [email protected]
People who want to argue the validity of this system in UKSAR need at least to have tried searching over land and sea, day and night and in poor weather beforehand.

Searching to kill is not the same game as searching to rescue.
It’s not. But that doesn’t mean capabilities can’t be brought across from other disciplines. As a Find asset, UAVs are a force multiplier and will only get better. Of course there will be bumps and chicanes along the way, that’s the nature of R&D. Acceptance is key as they tell you on SERE.

Last edited by trim it out; 14th Aug 2020 at 01:35.
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Old 14th Aug 2020, 08:03
  #1349 (permalink)  
 
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So, back to reality for a moment.

The Schneibel website mentions 6 hours endurance at 55 kts but all of the trials it highlights have been from a shipborne launch and recovery - where is HMCG getting the number of boats required for this?

So the other option is to launch it from the same base as the SAR helicopter using either a ground station or having the operator on the aircraft. Both current SAR aircraft will go to a search or rescue scene at least at 140 Kts - how far behind will the UAV be?

Our UK SAR bases are located specifically to achieve the required response times to cover their area of operation and are often a long transit from the job.

So, if you don't have them on ships (because we don't have any) and basing them at UKSAR helicopter bases is impractical - you are left with either bespoke ground stations/launch and recovery sites around the UK or you shoehorn the operators into the existing but somewhat reduced number of HMCG stations.

I'm not saying you can't find someone with a UAV - it might be more useful to the police for mispers overland - but if you are only going to use it in nice conditions it won't get much use in the UK.

Yes, and as a pilot using sensors in temperate environments. It’s still better (edit: in many situations) than the eyeball in skoshie conditions.
Yes, as a pilot using sensors to back up the Mk 1 eyeball I agree but that is augmenting the eyeball not replacing it.

Have you ever conducted a search in UK either overland or at sea, day or night, in good weather or foul? I have to ask because you sound like an Army UAV operator who has had great success on Ops in Afghan, desperate to ply his trade in a home environment.

One reason I am so resistant, apart from the clear practical issues, is that UKSAR doesn't need beancounters finding ways to reduce flying hours or numbers of aircraft and crews - this will inevitably lead to a reduction is the quality of service, the likes of which have been seen in the NPAS fiasco.

You don't seem to understand that we already have the best sensors on the existing aircraft along with NVD and 4 sets of eyes - on a platform that can actually rescue anyone it finds - the UAV just doesn't bring anything new to the party.
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Old 14th Aug 2020, 11:54
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The name is Schiebel and the S-100 has a VNE of 120 knots and normal cruise of 100 Knots.

Endurance figures are from typical mission profiles using time to target area, time on Scene and return to base. You may be interested to know that over 100,000 hours have now been flown and many of those are land based operations.
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Old 14th Aug 2020, 16:36
  #1351 (permalink)  
 
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The name is Schiebel and the S-100 has a VNE of 120 knots and normal cruise of 100 Knots.

Endurance figures are from typical mission profiles using time to target area, time on Scene and return to base. You may be interested to know that over 100,000 hours have now been flown and many of those are land based operations.
The Scheibel website says 120 Kts with a VNE of 130 but also that the max endurance speed is 55 Kts.

I'm sure it is a proven platform for many applications but I come back to the question of how it will be used in the UKSAR role overland or over water. It seems that they are using it at Caernavon as 'overwatch' to provide more info to the CG - sounds a bit 'long-handled screwdriver' to me, SAR crews are more than capable of giving the CG all the info they need - or they could just add a downlink to the helicopters capability.

I would be interested in the crews feedback since having to worry about another air vehicle when you are working hard in poor weather or at night trying to find the casualty just sounds hazardous.

One of the reasons TDAs were established around SAROps was to keep other aircraft away and now the CG wants to put one of its own in there. Hmmm - just let the crews do their job.

There doesn't seem to be an answer to my question about having to take another SAR asset away from its search to investigate anything the UAV finds (or thinks it has found).

I know I am fighting the inevitable - again - but any success of the UAVs will be used to drive down the use of helicopters to save money and create a false illusion of safety for the land and seas of the UK. If that is what you want then crack on.
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Old 14th Aug 2020, 18:03
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Is there any information on the weather limits applicable in terms of IMC,icing especially,as it`s a piston engine,as the UK`s weather can be anywhere from balmy,to barmy....?
I can see it being deployed/based in areas remote from dedicated SAR units as a Search asset until the real troops arrive for the `rescue`.It should also be remembered that 4 pairs of eyes,4 brains,and collective local knowledge of weather,local MRT,lifeboat crews, even intuition `outside the box`,etc play the biggest part of a successful rescue.....
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Old 14th Aug 2020, 18:07
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From the Director UK SAR
ďThese systems provide us with an option to keep our Sikorsky S92 helicopter crew at Caernarfon on standby for lifesaving events, while the unmanned aircraft are tasked with providing safety overwatch and monitoring which those manned aircraft would otherwise have been sent to carry out.
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Old 15th Aug 2020, 02:21
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Originally Posted by [email protected]
I have to ask because you sound like an Army UAV operator who has had great success on Ops in Afghan, desperate to ply his trade in a home environment.
My background is JTAC with Recce units in Afghanistan turned Army RW pilot.

I think we will just end up going round in circles Crab. I have a lot of respect for SAR boys and girls and I do understand your point of view, Iím just trying to put across that UAVs arenít trying to steal trade off aircrew and are the ginger step kids that actually have something useful to bring to the party and will have more when the tech continues to mature It will take time to develop the TTPs and confidence (find me a pilot that is comfortable with UAVs knocking about at the same height/area) but I think it will get there.
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Old 15th Aug 2020, 11:00
  #1355 (permalink)  
 
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Trimitout - see my quote above from the Director UKSAR - taking trade from aircrew is exactly what this initiative is about - keep the expensive to run asset on the ground until it is absolutely needed.

I don't doubt the value of UAVs - another tool is always welcome in the toolbox but that isn't how this is being pushed - the vision seems to be of a multitude of drones patrolling the UK shores and perhaps inland hotspots and only launching a helicopter when there is clear need for a rescue. Ambitious senior execs exist in all industries and areas and they are always about empire-building and land-grabbing but it is often wrapped up in vague altruism about improving safety or service.

What the UK actually needs IS more boots on the ground with expert local knowledge, not an operator with a camera pi**ing off beachgoers and hillwalkers with drone surveillance.

If you fly round the coast of UK, you can see how many empty Coastguard lookouts there are - a precious few still manned by volunteers - all victims of cost cutting and efficiencies imposed by management who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing. It's only a few years that full-time CG units were shut.

How long before drones are used to stop frequent MRT call outs, waiting until the casualty is located and then sending help - not good for the casualty who has to wait longer for medical help.

I have the greatest respect for the job you guys did in Afghan and I'm glad it provided a route into RW for you - enjoy.

I note with interest that the Director UKSAR Bristow, who made the quoted comments, is an ex-FJ pilot - perfect for overseeing RW operations!!!!

Last edited by [email protected]; 15th Aug 2020 at 11:12.
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Old 16th Aug 2020, 17:56
  #1356 (permalink)  
 
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We are in a very early stages of the process leading to the new contract and it will be interesting to observe how many of the new ideas will still be there when the Contract Notice is published in about six months time. Even more interesting to observe how many of those ideas are still around six months after that when they have been subjected to some detailed scrutiny.

Small Unmanned Aircraft are now a part of Scottish Mountain Rescue's SAR toolkit. Internationally, ICAR are setting up a dedicated group to examine their use. That technology will not develop sitting on the shelf. We need to get it out there and find out what it will do. However, I share many of Crab's reservations.

No number of found missing persons in benign rural locations 100m from a road in good light will persuade me of the wider SAR value of unmanned systems. For these to be valuable, there needs to be significant progress in developing new working methods and new capabilities that add significant value.

Value? Now, what is the value? Current contract fixed cost: £1 600 497 465. Estimated variable cost (expectation 2015): £282 440 729. So that £282M is a lot of money but if you are still sending out the helicopter to do the 'posh hovering' later on many occasions, and too late on some occasions, then I am not convinced that one could make much of a dent in the £282M with current technology using current working methods.

Looking at the Schiebel Camcopter, it has Sea King speed and a 50kg payload that probably allows for a good FLIR ball and associated electronics. It has the range of a Westland Dragonfly so chasing after it to put fuel in it might be an issue.

The Elbit Hermes 900 has far greater range and payload and is now available with a rescue payload that enables it to drop rafts and other equipment near persons in distress. However, that range and payload is rather dependent on its cruising speed of 60 knots.

Where I believe search capability can be enhanced is in sensor capability. Two areas in particular have been identified as potentially major steps forwards during the next few years to help bring to bear the Mark One Eyeball onto the target.

1. Mobile phone detection.
Several makers across Europe now have mature systems for detecting and interacting with phones. One of those is being deployed by the Norwegians as part of NAWSARH. The Recco SAR underslung sensor also has the capability of detecting phones and other electronic devices in a very basic way.

2. Spectral Imaging
The ability to detect specific substances by their spectral signature is an established system for agricultural crop monitoring across much of the world. Once this is refined in a way that makes it an in-flight real-time process instead of an office-based post-processing method then we will have an awesome SAR tool. Several manufacturers and researchers across the world are aware of this potential or even conducting search experiments and trials.

================================================

Originally Posted by [email protected]
I note with interest that the Director UKSAR Bristow, who made the quoted comments, is an ex-FJ pilot - perfect for overseeing RW operations!!!!
And ex-SAR base Station Commander.
To quote an experienced SAR Captain in a conversation at a Bristow SAR Base, "Russ gets it!"

I would really like you to be FAIR to the incumbent SAR contractor Crab. Their SAR crews and chain of command are dominated by highly experienced aircrew of varied provenance who bring a range of relevant tools to the task. Moreover, I commend them for their openness and their constructive approach (not universal amongst helicopter contractors) which has contributed considerably to the quality of the current service. It will be a serious loss if the next contractor does not demonstrate the same communications skills with the wider SAR community.

Last edited by jimf671; 16th Aug 2020 at 19:06.
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Old 17th Aug 2020, 08:49
  #1357 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by lowfat
I think your all staying inside the box This is a Maritime AND Coastguard contract.. SAR is only a small part of the responsibilities
Yes the toy helicopter Bristow is using is disappointing in many aspects but its a start. I envisaged drone use and overwatch on a more wide area
Say 2 machines on 48 hour high altitude patrol . 1 north 1 south doing mundane pollution and fisheries patrol until called for on a vessel in distress for example .
You can have a bun fight over the toy but fisheries ,pollution and the little devils crossing the channel thats Drone work in my mind.
No... It's a Maritime and Coastguard SAR contract. SAR is the entirety of the responsibilities. MCA surveillance is covered by other assets and contracts.
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Old 17th Aug 2020, 11:47
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Jim, I'm more than happy to be fair to the Director, he seems to have a good standing among colleagues who have worked there - they still don't pay the guys who do the dangerous and difficult stuff on SAR enough though.

Perhaps I have just seen too many senior officers claim to have 'got it' and then sell you down the river when their careers get prioritised.

Low fat - I am with you regarding the best use of the UAVs but there probably should be some crossover so that surveillance of our waters is a full time activity with drones which could then be re-tasked when conditions and the job suits.

Having a UAV assisting with a search from higher altitude while the helicopter is operating to IAMSAR protocols (usually much lower) will be a useful additional capability but UK weather might preclude that much of the time.
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Old 19th Aug 2020, 23:07
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Originally Posted by [email protected]

You are not going to improve the quality or effectiveness of searches by using UAVs
How can you claim that without ever trying it? What none of the old guard have admitted is how tired (and bored) human eyes and brains get during a search, especially over large tracts of water. The fatigue on the IR operator in particular is well documented - and while the IR operator is looking at the screen, that's only three sets of eyes out of the window. A drone doesn't suffer in the same way, but it has a variety of limitations of its own. It's sad but entirely predictable that this is being seen in terms of black and white (pun intended) - can we really not have a slightly more nuanced view which accepts that the two assets both have strengths and weaknesses, and in some situations might even complement each other quite nicely?
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Old 20th Aug 2020, 07:43
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TOTD - you clearly didn't read the last line from my last post then.

I have colleagues who have experience with UAVs using cutting edge technology and the scenario I mentioned is the most likely way to improve search efficiency.

Don't try to replace or replicate the helicopter search protocols with UAVs, use them for what they do best - large area, high altitude scanning with multiple sensors.

You don't have to tell me about search and fatigue - a 4-hour search of Swansea Bay on NVD in a 200' cloudbase and p8ssing rain was one of the most tiring ones I have done - but a UAV would have been of no help in those conditions.
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