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.

Minister Meets with Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Mike Penning MP, joined members of the Northern Ireland Civil Air Patrol at their base to discuss the organisation and the support they offer to the community.

After viewing one of the aircraft, the Minister was provided with a briefing by the Chairman of Sky Watch UK, Tony Cowan, and Unit Director and Deputy Chief Pilot of Sky Watch NI, Paul Trimble. After the Chairman provided an overview of the organisation, Paul Trimble provided more detail on the service and technology used in Northern Ireland, including unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).

The Minister was very enthusiastic about the use of voluntary sector in support of the
emergency services and expressed particular interest in the work of Civil Air Patrol during the recent severe weather. After his briefing the Minister said “I greatly admire the work of the voluntary sector in support of the local community and the emergency services.”

It soon became evident that the Minister could see opportunities for a voluntary sector organisation such as Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol to support PSNI when searching for missing persons and in response to severe weather events. For the Fire and Rescue Service of Northern Ireland, the use of drones is particularly important when dealing with hazardous materials, wildfires and flooding.

Drone Launched in Search for Missing Portrush Man

Drone ready for launchSky Watch Civil Air Patrol (Northern Ireland) have carried out a search for missing man Dean Patton on Ramore Head, Portrush, using an un-manned aircraft. The search took place at first light on Friday 24 August 2012 shortly after low tide, at approximately 6.40am. High definition video imagery was recorded by the drone at various altitudes. All of the headland, cliff-faces and rock shelves plus 100 metres out to sea was captured. The un-manned fixed-wing aircraft was in the air for just over 5 minutes.

The UAV pilot, Paul Trimble, stated that “During the first deployment of the drone on a call-out the conditions were excellent for searching, even though there was light rain falling. I hope that the data collected will bring some comfort to Dean’s family.”

The request to search was made by Dean’s family and the data collected has been handed over to Coleraine CID for analysis.


 Notes to Editors:

The pilot was on the ground observing live telemetry of the flight. The aircraft was stabilised using the onboard auto pilot. The aircraft is battery powered and is made of foam. It has a 1.4m wingspan and weighs just over 1kg.

Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol carries out humanitarian airborne search missions on behalf of statutory agencies, voluntary organisations, families and individuals. The collected imagery is handed over to the agency or individual who has asked for the mission. Sky Watch does not analyse the imagery.

Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol (Northern Ireland) has permission from the Civil Air Authority to operate drones in the UK, in full compliance with the Air Navigation Order 2009.

For further information please contact: 028 9261 3844 or email

NIFRS and PSNI Sign MoUs with Skywatch Civil Air Patrol

NIFRS MoUs Signing

Pictured at the signing of the agreement are (l-r) Paul Trimble, Deputy Chief Pilot, Skywatch and Chris Kerr, Interim Chief Fire Officer, NIFRS.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have signed important Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with Skywatch Civil Air Patrol relating to the tasking and coordination of volunteer aviation assets.

The documents formalise procedures for the callout and use of their aircraft across a range of operations from wildland fires to long term missing person searches.
Chris Kerr, Interim Chief Fire Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said:

“This is a very significant and welcome development for us.  For the first time ever it will give NIFRS the capability of aerial reconnaissance during major incidents such as flooding and wildland fires thereby enhancing the safety and well being of our community and our Firefighters.”

Superintendent David Moore, Police Service of Northern Ireland said:
 “By signing these Memorandum of Understanding with Skywatch both agencies are committing to continuing to work closely with our partners in the voluntary sector to ensure the best possible response to a broad range of incidents in which the use of aviation resources could provide benefits including the possibility of saving lives”.
Skywatch have invested considerable time, money and effort into preparing an aircraft and training staff to perform this valuable activity and their presence in the sky will become a regular feature of partnership operations in the coming months.