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Thermal detector could save hundreds

PUBLISHED: 09:11 30 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 March 2010

STATE-of-the-art thermal imaging equipment which could save the lives of hundreds of people missing on mountains and at sea every year was unveiled today.

STATE-of-the-art thermal imaging equipment which could save the lives of hundreds of people missing on mountains and at sea every year was unveiled today.

The STAR-Q infra-red detectors which can locate the heat from an individual 1,000 metres away during day or night will be fitted to RAF Sea King search and rescue helicopters across the UK.

The detectors will be used by RAF crews to find missing military personnel as well as lost climbers, sailors and fishermen.

Crews can detect a thermal signal at over 1,000 metres and identify a person at 500 metres on land, or 750 metres at sea.

Minister for defence procurement Lord Bach said: "Their infra-red capability makes it possible to detect a missing person in conditions that make visual identification very difficult or impossible.

"For mountain rescue in particular it has many benefits, since RAF crews will be able to scan the ground far quicker than at present and either complete the rescue themselves or direct mountain rescue teams to the missing person.

"For someone suffering from a serious injury or suffering the onset of hypothermia the time saved can be a matter of life or death."

Flight Lieutenant Jon Everitt of E Flight 202 Squadron, based at RAF Leconfield, East Yorkshire, added: "This infra-red equipment should provide us with a greatly enhanced search capability, both over water and over land.

"Our business is to save lives - to do that we need to locate the casualty quickly. With this equipment we are giving ourselves, and therefore the casualty, the best chance possible.'

The Ministry of Defence has placed an £8 million order with Kent-based FLIR Systems for the STAR-Q thermal imager, which will be fitted to 16 RAF Sea King helicopters from mid-2003.

All systems will be in place by mid-2004 for the following RAF bases: Chivenor in Devon, Valley in Anglesey, Lossiemouth in Morayshire, Boulmer in Northumberland, Leconfield in East Yorkshire, Wattisham in Suffolk, St Mawgan, in Cornwall and Mount Pleasant Airfield in the Falkland Islands.

An MoD spokesman said the detectors could help save the lives of hundreds of people every year.

Search teams currently use radar, radio homing and night-vision goggles to look for missing people, all of which have limited use and are often slow, costly and risky to crews flying close to the ground.

The infra-red detectors can provide clear images in poor visibility, reduces search time and enable crews to fly at higher altitudes.

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