On Thursday 26th of October, Visual Pursuit were given the exciting opportunity to assist HMNB Greenock, offering their drone footage services to record a training procedure on SD OMAGH, which typically is completed behind closed doors, and rarely is viewed by external individuals.
As one of the bloggers, I was offered the experience of attending alongside, getting some first hand experience of what goes on behind the scenes. Our day started leaving from Glasgow at 7am to complete the 55 minute drive to HMNB Greenock. The aim of this job was to collect high-quality footage of the ship and it's crew, as they completed a safety procedure test, known as a MES (Marine Evacuation System) Deployment. This was particularly interesting, especially to Visual Pursuit, as the process occurs once every 5 years and was the first time ever that drones were used to record this process at the base - a huge honour for Visual Pursuit.
Below you can see satellite imagery of HMNB Greenock, and where the ship was positioned for the filming.
(Photo courtesy of Google Earth)
Firstly, upon an early arrival and checking in with the Marinas reception office, we began using a smaller drone to test the weather. Robert, the drone pilot, explained to me about how different weather can affect how well a drone can fly, and also impact significantly upon the battery life of drones. As the weather on the coast of Scotland was, expectedly, rather wet and windy it was important to test the drones we had with us, to see how they coped against the wind - and the seagulls chasing them!
Typically, on a clear and dry day, the smaller drone we had with us would last 30 minutes hovering in the air and capturing footage to be used later. However, due to the weather conditions, it was important to take into account that the wind could potentially alter the flight path as we filmed, and reduce the battery by up to roughly 10 minutes.
The ship we were filming was called SD OMAGH, and is a Naval/Naval Auxiliary built in 2000, making it 23 years old. Below you can see the crew mid exercise, and those of you who are eagle eyed can spot one of the drones capturing the footage!
Visual Pursuit's role on this occasion would be to capture the deployment of an emergency life raft, which the crew would then position and inflate in front of the appropriate evacuation area. Next, the crew would inflate the Mini Slide, which would connect to the life raft and allow 'passengers' and crew to exit the vessel in an emergency situation. Finally, once all the checks and preparation was completed, crew members would test out the slide entering the life raft, and then would be picked up by a speedboat belonging to the neighbouring SD ORONSAY, mimicking the process in a real life emergency.
Once all the footage is gathered from our equipment, Visual Pursuit will then create a short video showing the emergency procedure process in order, accompanied with a voice over provided from Serco. This video will then serve as an easy, informative guide for staff training programs in the future. Aiming to ensure the protocol is followed harmonious to the standards set by the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency).
Following our drone pilot capturing some initial footage of the boat, we were introduced to Chris Guthrie; Maritime Training Officer, a longtime employee of Serco, and also an individual with a great experience at sea. He explained the in's and out's of the procedure we were here to film, describing what we should be prepared to see and what parts would be integral to the filming.
During this brief explanation of the days events, we boarded the vessel and met some of the busy crew, completing any last minute tasks before the test began. Myself and our drone pilot listened to the crews briefing, and the basic safety protocol which the Technical Superintendent of the vessle wished to be played through the ships tannoys. While we listened to our instructions regarding the locations of life jackets and such, we set up the drones, tied off cameras, and go-pro's to make sure to capture everything from all angles.
Below you can see one of the tied off cameras we used to record the process from across the dock.
Meanwhile, the regulator from the MCA, "the police of the sea" in Chris' words, collected all the necessary information from the vessels Technical Superintendent, Andy Mackechnie. Including a list of all personnel present, and crucial details of the ships positioning prior to the procedure commencing. Also present was two representatives from Viking, the suppliers of the emergency equipment life raft and mini slide, making their own assessment of their products success. Overall, this MES Deployment was an important day for crew, suppliers, and the regulator; as its practiced only once every five years, therefore ensuring it is practiced without incident makes all the difference. Moreover, it was a particularly interesting day for Visual Pursuit, having the opportunity to use drones to film this for the first time ever.
While the process we filmed was done in depth and broken up into small steps for training purposes, in reality, a real emergency would require these steps to be completed ideally in less than 30 minutes. Which is why these tests are carried out, with a regulator from the MCA present, and why the need for a training video arose.
Moreover, the HMNB Greenock has an interesting history attached to it, during the nineteenth century an era of industrialisation both Greenock and Port Glasgow held a significant relationship with shipbuilding. As the industry grew many were encouraged to migrate from Ireland, the Highlands, other areas of Scotland and even England, prompting population growth and a rise in industry in the area.
In summary, Visual Pursuit and HMNB Greenock's collaboration capturing a seldom seen MES deployment is a remarkable, and also historic opportunity. As well as significant milestone for Drone Technology, and the Visual Pursuit company as a whole, demonstrating a new way to document such safety procedures. The presence of both Viking and MCA officials only denoting the importance of these tests, ensuring the crew are prepared for real-life emergencies that they may encounter while at sea. The filming of such a procedure only goes to show the commitment to safety and regulations by the company, preparing new training staff with the tools and training to deal with potential high stress situations they may encounter. Finally, Visual Pursuit's role in capturing a rare glimpse of such a procedure has been both a unique and enlightening experience for all who attended, and will be remembered for years to come.
Visual Pursuit Ltd are Drone Specialists who provide a variety of UAV/UAS (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle/System) services including Drone Surveys, Mapping, Inspections, Photography, Video, 3D Modelling, Progress Tracking, Property/Land Marketing, Search and Rescue.
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