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Up and at 'em: WC Health Dept adds drones to its rescue armoury

It officially has license to operate drones and the first devices in the project were quite literally launched on Table Mountain on Tuesday afternoon.

The Western Cape Health Department officially has a licence to operate drones. They will be used in rescue operations. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape Health Department is showing off a new weapon to be used in rescue operations.

It officially has licence to operate drones and the first devices in the project were quite literally launched on Table Mountain on Tuesday afternoon.

The department is the first government institution in the country that is allowed to fly over national key points.

As of today, if an incident occurs in the mountain range around Cape Town, teams will be called out and the drone will be sent up in minutes.

EMS director Shaheem de Vries said that the department had registered pilots who would be assisting crews on the ground over the festive season.

"We are the first state-owned licenced operator, and we would like to see this grow to other rescue services and parts of the city as well."

For the moment, the focus is on the Table Mountain range, which can be dangerous both for hikers getting into trouble and for those being targeted by criminals.

"For instance, if a hiker falls on the mountain and is injured and the rest of his party can't get to him, in that sort of scenario you can deploy the drone, you can see precisely what the situation is and actually plan your rescue."

Wilderness Search and Rescue’s incident commander Roy van Schoor said that the drones would also be available to search the surf on nearby beaches when necessary.

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