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USE OF a drone to help find a missing person in Ennis in October has strengthened calls for increased investment in technology for emergency services in the county.

In what was reported to be the first instance in Ireland that a drone helped to locate a missing person when the Gardaí requested the assistance of the Clare Civil Defence in a search around Ballyalla in October. Clare Civil Defence with the assistance of the Civil Defence Branch of the Department of Defence and Clare County Council purchased the state-of-the-art DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced drone.

Citing this “successful” outcome, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) proposed that Clare County Council “complement the present drone with an all weather drone fitted with infra-red capability.”

Presently, there are 85 active volunteers in the Clare Civil Defence.

Chief Fire Officer, Adrian Kelly outlined that new European legislation covering the use of drones was introduced in 2019 with an implementation date of December 2022. He said the Civil Defence and Council are working towards a “successful implementation” of the legislation.

Kelly revealed, “It is intended that Clare County Council through Clare Civil Defence will make a business case to the Civil Defence Branch of the Department of Defence in early 2022 for the purchase of an enhanced all-weather drone with extra batteries and other ancillaries with an estimated price of approximately €30,000, which would greatly enhance the operational use of the Civil Defence Search & Rescue capabilities”.

Volunteers had informed Cllr Ryan that the present drone was “fantastic” but “didn’t operate in windy conditions or the dark”. The Mayor of Clare admitted he was unaware the cost would be in the region of €30,000, “if it saved a couple of lives I don’t think this body or any other would be concerned about €30,000”.

Importance of drones and technology was stressed to Junior Minister, Peter Burke (FG) on his recent visit to the county, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) recalled. Successful outcomes in missing person cases thanks to drones are “priceless,” she insisted.

Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) told the meeting that in Sweden defibrillators are attached to drones and are used to aid people in need within a matter of minutes. “Anything that assists in search and rescue is a help,” Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) commented.

“Modern technology and drones have moved on in a huge way. Forward thinking is the future,” said Cllr Pat McMahon (FF). “The way forward is these drones,” Cllr John Crowe (FG) agreed.

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