Direct Line's drones will be used to rescue people at sea

Direct Line and Saatchi & Saatchi London have formed the first partnership making use of its pioneering "Fleetlights" drone technology and donated a fleet of waterproofed drones to Caister Lifeboat Service.

Caister Lifeboat Service
Caister Lifeboat Service

The Norfolk service will use a network of Fleetlights drones equipped with high-powered lights and HD cameras to perform semi-autonomous flights to help lifeboat crews spot people stranded at sea.

Saatchi & Saatchi filmed the fleet's inaugural flight earlier this week, with the drones lighting up the sea in a 10-mile radius from the lifeboat.

Each mobile-controlled drone uses "mesh networking" tech, which helps operators spot people who would otherwise be easy to miss. At night, the technology can help rescuers see further than they usually could thanks to the high-powered lights.

After conversations with the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) and HM Coastguard, Direct Line decided that Caister would be the first to benefit from the technology given its distance from helicopter support.

The drones will be used in searches ahead of a potential national roll-out.

Paul Garrod, chairman of Caister Lifeboats, said: "In the past, there have been instances where we have been unsuccessful when searching for someone in need of help. Perhaps if we had been equipped with the drone technology, these searches would have had a positive outcome."

Mark Evans, Direct Line’s marketing director, added: "We deliberately created the Fleetlights code on an open-source basis in the hope that this would help us to accelerate. Now that we are using the technology to develop the drones for sea rescue it has happened much faster than anticipated."

Saatchi & Saatchi have also created a teaser clip for the full film:

The original "Fleetlights" work broke in November 2016. The drones were the latest in a series of experiments conducted by Direct Line to improve everyday objects to make people’s lives better.

They were created in collaboration with developer Micael Oborne, creator of the Mission Planner drone. Their original purpose was to bring mobile street lights to the darkest parts of the UK.

Saatchi & Saatchi won a silver and a bronze Cannes Lions for the Fleetlights campaign.