A UKCAPScotland aircraft recently assisted the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service by aerial photo mapping the aftermath of a huge wildfire in the Highlands of Scotland. The crew involved tried something new for us - the systematic pattern photography of a vast area of ground with subtle overlap. Technically, the hundreds of high definition images could be stitched together to provide a vast super-detailed image of the entire incident site. The aircraft moved from west to east taking a total of 19 sweeps to cover the entire area with all photographs orientated north.
It is hoped that this technique can be employed for similar large area surveys. The techniques, effort and concentration involved to get this one right were considerable.
The Civil Air Patrol in Scotland is currently carrying out a trial on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society https://www.mcsuk.org/ and the Moray Firth Partnership to survey and catalogue rubbish on remote beaches. This is part of a national drive to rid beaches of plastic detritus which contributes to plastic pollution in our oceans. The trial is being called SCRAP – Scottish Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography and so far one trial survey sortie has been flown to evaluate and define the required techniques. More trial sorties are planned for the very near future and we hope to be going ‘live’ with the actual survey early in 2018. While UKCAP Scotland provided photography over 6100 miles of Scottish mainland coast, local teams will be despatched to recover rubbish from the most affected areas. Eventually the initiative will expand to the entire UK coast.
In preparation for a future project (more about that at a later date), crews have been issued with powerful new cameras and have been trialling them by taking pictures of short sections of Scottish coastline from around 800 feet. The purpose is to capture various pollutants (mainly plastic) by accurate imagery. The photographs are taken in large file format and analyzed after the flight to reveal the extent of any pollution and its exact location. Images are taken if plastic is spotted from the air by observers but also of areas where accumulations of washed-up plastic are typical. With experience, crews quickly get a feel for these areas and analysis of the subsequent images often reveals significant pollution even when not immediately apparent from the air. The advantage of large file sized digital images is that they can be expanded considerably to reveal extra detail.
UKCAPScotland crews flew multiple sorties on 1st March 2019 in support of British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in an attempt to locate a humpback whale and calf previously spotted in the Firth of Forth. Unfortunately, despite near perfect conditions, nothing was seen. Our pictures and GPS trace are from crew 2 who covered the North end of the Firth. Bruce Thomson, UKCAP Scotland’s senior observer who flew as part of crew 2 said: “Conditions today were perfect for a search such as this with great visibility and a very calm sea. I have a very high degree of confidence that we would have spotted a whale anywhere in the Firth had it been there. UKCAPS will have crews on standby for the next few days for deployment if required”. Click to see search track in our image Gallery.
UKCAP Scotland recently received a request from a family member to assist in a missing person search, following a period during which the vulnerable person had not been found by any of the agencies actively looking for him. The UKCAPS Ops Group authorised a search mission flown by a highly experienced crew using an autogyro, given the prevailing strong wind conditions (autogyros tend to cope well in windy weather). This search employed, for the very first time, a new technique developed as an offshoot of the organisation’s experience in coastal rubbish survey. The flight duration was 1 hour and 5 minutes, costing a little over £25.
Post-flight analysis of the considerable amount of data obtained revealed clear indications that immediate police intervention was necessary (although nothing had been seen directly during the search). Police were informed and, sadly, a body was recovered which was later identified as the missing person.
Peter Macintosh, a Deputy Unit Chief Pilot with UKCAP Scotland who co-ordinated the CAP search from Inverness said: "First and foremost our thoughts are with the relatives and friends of this gentleman - along with everyone else affected by the very sad situation that has unfolded since he went missing. We recognise that nothing that UKCAPS did resulted in any different outcome for them but hope that we did bring closure much more quickly and with less distress than may otherwise have been the case through our skilful guidance of professional resources".
UKCAP Scotland’s Chief Pilot, Archie Liggat, who is also the Civil Air Patrol’s UK National Chairman added: "This sad situation has once again underlined the effectiveness of UKCAP aircraft and crews in extended missing person searches when statutory air search resources are either unavailable or have been stood down. We understand that it is important for loved ones to know that an airborne search is on-going and therefore continue to offer our services free of charge whenever they are required. UKCAPS is a charity, and whilst we can't always help - for many different reasons - anyone can contact us if they believe our assistance might be beneficial. We continue to hope that even first responders such as Police Scotland will re-engage with us for the wider benefits of our communities soon, as we continue to demonstrate what our well organised, trained and disciplined crews can do. My thoughts are also with this gentleman's family at this sad time".