Sky Watch NI and Wildland Fires 2018

Sky Watch NI have spent the first half of July working with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service. 

It all started on the 26th June when we were tasked by the fire service to attend a wild land fire close to the Glenshane pass which had been going for a few days. We worked closely with the fire service, Forestry service  and Rescue 116 the Coastguard Helicopter.

 

 

 

 

A few pictures of Rescue 116 on scene with Sky Watch NI

Call number two came a week later this was to a peat bog outside  Rasharkin on 4th July.  We could see the smoke from miles back as we drove to the incident,  The fire was smoldering more than flames but as daylight subsided the flames intensified.  
Due to the long duration of this incident the Sky Watch NI team worked in shifts, this was the first time we had to deploy a shift pattern.  The evening shift got this impressive image.  We were at Rasharkin for two days.  By the evening of day 2 the fire was well under control.


Our third call out found us at the South Eastern part of the country. We were once again deployed but this time to Meigh. We liaised with the Incident commander to discuss the concerns.We were were on scene for two days. While dealing with the main fire we could see plumes of smoke from other sites in the distance.

 

 

We spent the day videoing the fire spreading through the tree line and thanks to Mourne Heritage Trust for ferrying us and our kit around. Properties were safe and we were eventually stood down.Little did we know we would be back the next day.

Day one we were listening to the trees burning they were going off like a match that had just been struck.

Please visit our Facebook page we have several videos for you to see


Day two the Irish Army Air Corps were called in to help with the fire. They brought a 1200 litre Bambi bucket and two helicopters this enabled them to dowse the fire with water from the nearby Camlough Lake.We worked closely with the helicopter crews and this is not the first occasion we have had to share airspace with a full sized aircraft.

Tractor Run in aid of Sky Watch (NI)-25th March

Sky Watch (NI) are holding a Tractor Run on Saturday 25th March 2017 to raise funds for training and equipment for their Search Unit.  The gates open at 1200 and all are welcome to attend.  The tractors will be setting of at 2pm and the run will last for approximately one hour returning to Lilburn’s Farm.

Entry is £10 per tractor and passengers are £5

Entry includes a £2 token to use at the catering van and one ticket for the raffle.

Entrance forms are completed on arrival.

Sky Watch at the Balmoral Show 2015

Our thanks once again to the organisers of the Balmoral Show for our superb stand and to our new and experienced volunteers, who kindly gave up their free time and work time to meet the public.

It was  a very busy three days with hundreds of leaflets distributed and numerous kind donations. Lots of people stopped to enquire about our work and discover their temperature on our thermal camera. Our new schools programme proved popular with visiting schools too.

We would also like to thank Johnston Gilpin, Lisburn for the use of their Gator, a superb off road cart which allowed us to transport our heavy equipment around the site for UAV flights and quick redeployment of staff.

Skywatch ‘Feature’ at Emergency Services Show

ACC Sean White of the Cleveland PoliceSkywatch was fortunate enough to be situated close to the seminar area when ACC Sean White of the Cleveland Police was due to give his talk on the use of UAVs at this years’ Emergency Services Show.

As a related prop, Skywatch was offered the opportunity to position their fixed wing drone beside the presentation screen which provided some excellent branding for the charity and even some media coverage, as seen in the October edition of Police Aviation News.

Summer Prize Winners

Skywatch Collecting TinOver the summer we ran a number of competitions at events and festivals with a range of prizes from toy gliders to a flight in our Foxbat.

Below is a list of our prize winners:

The Lost Sheep prizes were won by
J Potter of Ballyclare and J. Erskine.

The Firesize Quiz was won by Majorie Craig of Donemana.

The Yellow Box Challenge for 2014 was won by Sandra Patterson and Collete Jones, both of Kilmore Ladies’ Group in Lurgan. The winners receive a flight in a light aircraft.

If you are interested in the Yellow Box Challenge for a group or organisation you belong to, please contact us.

On Exercise with the North West Mountain Rescue Team

On Sunday 31st August, SkyWatch NI undertook a days training with the North West Mountain Rescue Team (NWMRT) on Slieveanorra in County Antrim.

Beginning at 10am under blue skies and light winds we spent the morning discussing a range of protocols for search, communication and interoperability followed by equipment familiarisation.

This led to a number of agreements on procedure, particularly in relation to search, scene management and communication procedures, ensuring a faster, more coordinated approach during real incidents. It also gave both teams an opportunity to meet each other and understand each others capabilities and limitations.

Following a quick lunch on the mountainside we began a search within the designated area based on a mock missing persons’ profile. While the NWMRT utilised their strength in numbers and profile based search techniques, SkyWatch undertook wide area and inaccessible area searches using the quadcopter.

As the afternoon progressed the NWMRT found the first of the two missing people and provided a team to extract them by stretcher back to their awaiting vehicles. The second missing person was then spotted by the quadcopter operator within a sunken gulley, in the boggy and challenging ground cover. While the visibility remained excellent throughout the day, wind sheer on the lee side of the mountain pushed both the quadcopter and operator to their limit with the unit flying over 60º horizontally into the wind to maintain stability while still recording an excellent image.

With the second person identified, the NWMRT then provided personnel for the medical assistance and recovery of the individual.

Overall the day highlighted a number of operating procedures which benefited from refinement, some clear decisions on protocol and the ease and professionalism of working with the NWMRT who facilitated the days’ training.

It also highlighted the immediate need for a SkyWatch command vehicle for the radio control officer, battery charging stations and video analysis. Currently this is provided through the donation of volunteers’ own vehicles and equipment.

You can find out more about the North West Mountain Rescue Team on their website.

In(between)flight Entertainment at Newcastle Festival of Flight

Gallery

Skywatch NI attended the Newcastle Festival of Flight for the first time this year and enjoyed a superb day of sunshine, hundreds of visitors and stunning views of rare and expertly piloted aircraft.

With a stand in Donard Park and a dedicated group of volunteers, pilots and ground crew in attendance, the event was a fantastic family day. Volunteers provided free arm bands for children, to return them as quickly as possible to their parents in the event of separation along the waterfront, while others manned the very popular souvenir and drinks stand.

The aerostat was also flown from the neighbouring playing fields providing a clear panoramic view of the town to visiting dignitaries, including the Mayor and a veteran aircraft gunner of World War II.

Eye in the Sky Over Balmoral Show

Aerostat flying over Balmoral Show Car Park

The SkyWatch A300 Aerostat flying over the Balmoral Show Car Park

Firmly tethered, the SkyWatch A300 Aerostat floated happily in the blue skies over Balmoral Show 2014 while tens of thousands of visitors enjoyed three days of agricultural displays and shopping.

Combined with over-flights by SkyWatch pilots in the Foxbat fixed wing aircraft, the aerostat, donated by local company Search Systems, provided a live feed of traffic updates around the site, making it easier for organisers and ground staff to manage queues, blockages and gates. Feeding video directly back to the control room or at longer range to ground crew with a radio relay, the aerial feedback trial proved both successful for the Balmoral Show and SkyWatch NI.

With flights covering a wide area in the morning during rush hour and the aerostat providing local imagery of the car parking and inroads, SkyWatch was able to provide invaluable feedback throughout the three day show.

Aerostat flying in the evening over Balmoral Show

Flying in the evening as families made their way home.

The balloon also proved popular with families and children, attracting a lot of attention and debate regarding it’s purpose. Most discussion centred around having a camera or being a weather balloon.

Other ideas put forward were having someone inside the balloon, which would be a lot of fun, but a balloon of this size (3.6 cubic metres) is only capable of lifting 1.5kgs.

An unexpected but very welcome use for the balloon also arose on the last day when people were finding it difficult to locate their cars. By photographing the car park and zooming into the images we could locate the occasional, distinctly coloured vehicle. Ultimately that job still remained most effective with the folks from EventSec on the ground who provided site security and parking management.