Civil Defence team use new drone technology in search for missing Clare woman

Maria Hennigar

The search for a missing woman in Co Clare is utilising new drone technology operated by Civil Defence volunteers. 

The new Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) technology allows search volunteers to cover areas of ground six times faster than previous methods.

Maria Hennigar (35) has been missing from the Doolin area since early November. Civil Defence volunteers from Ennis will join Gardai and the Doolin Coastguard in efforts to locate Ms Hennigar from lunchtime today. 

The search will be concentrated around the Doolin village area, taking in Doolin pier and its coastal surrounds before moving inland. Three Ennis based Civil Defence volunteers will use the SUA technology operating under new pilot licences secured in conjunction with the Irish Aircraft Authority (IAA). The team includes a drone pilot and two camera operators.

Volunteer Stevie Hayes said the technology allows volunteers conduct a more comprehensive area search in a fraction of the time.

“With ten to fifteen volunteers the search of an 500m area could take 30 minutes whereas with the drone we can cover it in three to five minutes. The drones have maps, GPS and zoom technology so if anyone spots something and wants to take a closer look we can do that,” Mr Hayes said.

Pilot licences have been secured to fly up to 500m in height whereas the standard drone operator is limited to 300m.

“A lot of the terrain we cover is dangerous, cliff tops and caves and slippery rocky coastal regions so this technology allows us to carry out our work in a much safer way,” Mr Hayes said.

The €150,000 scheme began last winter and teams in nine counties have completed training.

The technology became operational over the summer and the IAA and Department of Defence will present the Civil Defence teams with their official certificates at a ceremony in the Phoenix Park tomorrow. (SAT)

Civil Defence Chief Technical Officer Kevin Houston said the drone provides assistance to the search manager and the physical search team.

“It is ideal for open ground and large boggy areas and coastal areas where you have rocks and caves. The drones are fitted with optical zoom and we have thermal imaging cameras that can be called upon by the county units at any time,” Mr Houston said.

Miss Hennigar was last seen at Doonmacphelim, Doolin, Co Clare around the first week of November. She is described as being 5’8” in height, with brown hair, blue/green eyes and of medium build.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Ennistymon Garda Station on 065 7072180.


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