New camera technology is set to save lives by significantly improving the ability of Royal Air Force Search and Rescue teams to detect missing people in all weathers.
The £10m thermal imaging system has begun to enter service across the RAF's fleet of Sea King helicopters used to rescue groups such as aircrews, stranded climbers and struggling sea vessels.
The Sea King Multi Sensor System comprises a thermal imaging camera mounted alongside a daylight TV camera in a gyro-stabilised turret.
It works by detecting heat sources such as human bodies and relaying them on a dual monitor display inside the aircraft.
The system can detect a one degree centigrade temperature change from over 1km away, allowing people to be identified at night or in poor visibility.
It is controlled by a radar operator and can operate on either automatic or manual modes. Two Mk3A Sea King helicopters, based at RMB Chivenor in North Devon, have already been fitted with the kit.
"The installation of these advanced new sensors will give the RAF's Search and Rescue crews a hugely enhanced capability which will undoubtedly help save lives," said Procurement Minister Lord Bach, in a statement.
Search and Rescue Commander RAF Group Captain Jim Goodbourn added in a statement: "This new system, which is at the cutting edge of modern infrared technology, will greatly enhance the capability of the helicopters by allowing them to locate and rescue people in danger much quicker than before."
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