Successful Search & Rescue by Clare Civil Defence Drone Team

18 October 2021

Clare Civil Defence was tasked by An Garda Síochána, based in Ennis to assist with a search for a missing person at 1.30am on Saturday 16th October. An initial search team, consisting of the unit’s Drone Crew, was dispatched to Ballyalla Lake on the outskirts of Ennis town. Assistant Civil Defence Officer, Mr. Steven Hayes, himself an Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) licensed drone pilot, took command of the Civil Defence resources deployed for the search. The Civil Defence drone was launched to conduct an extensive and intensive search of the water’s edge and the surrounding area. As it was dark, the drone pilot engaged the Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC), which allows for the pilot and a spotter to focus on heat sources – particularly that of humans. After a short time, both the pilot and spotter identified a very faint heat source, in what looked to be extremely heavy undergrowth. A member of the Clare Civil Defence Search & Rescue team accompanied by a member of An Garda Síochána proceeded to the identified area to investigate the source of the heat source being viewed. As they approached the area, they both called out in the hope that there may be a response. A faint cry for help was heard but given the poor light and the very heavy undergrowth, neither could establish exactly where the call for help had emanated from. Radio contact was established between the Civil Defence search team member and the Civil Defence drone pilot. The drone pilot was then able to guide both the Civil Defence volunteer and the Garda to the exact location of where the call for help had come from. The missing person was extricated from extremely thick undergrowth. The rescued person was then assessed for any injuries by a Clare Civil Defence Paramedic.   On assessment, no injuries were found, and the person was safely handed over to the care of An Garda Síochána. The missing person was handed over to the care of An Garda Síochána within 1 hour of the callout.

Clare Civil Defence, with the generous assistance of the Civil Defence Branch of the Department of Defence and Clare County Council, recently purchased a state-of-the-art DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced drone. The Mavic 2 has several innovative features including a Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC), Infa-red (IR) capabilities and a loudspeaker through which the pilot can send out voice commands. The TIC capability of the drone proved to be an invaluable asset in the location and recovery of the missing person. In addition to the aforementioned, 32 members of the Clare Civil Defence Search & Rescue Team have, in the last few months, successfully completed a Missing Person Search Responder course. This course was formulated as a result of collaboration between the Civil Defence Branch of the Department of Defence and An Garda Síochána.

This successful search & rescue operation highlights the professionalism and extremely high standard of training that the volunteer members of the Civil Defence achieve. The coherent and long-standing relationship that exists between An Garda Síochána and the Civil Defence, particularly with regards to missing person searches, is the foundation on which this tasking and many other operations lead to very rewarding outcomes.