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AERIAL OBSERVATION
OF OIL
TECHNICAL INFORMATION PAPER No 1 2009
Strategy for aerial reconnaissance
At the outset of an incident, reports from reconnaissance flights are often vital to establish the nature and scale of the pollution problem. Subsequent flights should be made regularly, commonly at the beginning or end of each day, so that the results can be used to plan response operations(Figure 1). The flights, including their time-tabling and flight paths, should be coordinated to avoid unnecessary duplication. As the pollution situation is brought under control the need for flights will reduce and disappear.
Safety considerations are paramount and the aircraft pilot should be consulted on all aspects of the reconnaissance operation prior to departure. Those taking part in aflight should be regularly and thoroughly briefed beforehand on the safety features of the aircraft and procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency. Suitable personal protective equipment, such as life jackets, should be available and used.
When selecting the most appropriate aircraft, consideration needs to be given to the location of the spill, the nearest airstrip and refuellingstations, and the likely extent of sea and coastline to be included in a reconnaissance flight. Any aircraft used for aerial observation must feature good all-round visibility and carry suitable navigational aids. For example, if there is a choice of aircraft design, better visibility is afforded by high-mounted wings. Over near-shore waters the flexibility of helicopters is an advantage, for instance insurveying an intricate coastline with cliffs, coves and islands. However, over the open sea, there is less need for rapid changes in flying speed, direction and altitude, and the speed and range of fixed-wing aircraft are more advantageous. Aircraft selection should take into account the operating speed, for if this is too fast the ability to observe and record oil will be reduced, and if it istoo slow the flying distance will be limited. For surveys over the open sea, the extra margin of safety afforded by a twin or multi-engined aircraft is essential – and may in any case be required by government regulations.
The type and size of an aircraft will limit the number of people able to take part in a flight. For small aircraft, and helicopters in particular, the number of passengers cansubstantially affect fuel consumption and thus the endurance of the aircraft. If there are two or more observers on a surveillance flight, they should work closely together to compare and confirm sightings. The lead observer directing the pilot should be experienced in aerial surveillance and be able to reliably detect, recognise and record oil pollution at sea. There should be a consistency of atleast one observer throughout a series of flights, so that variations in reports reflect changes in the state of oil pollution and not differences between the perceptions of the observers.
Preparations for aerial reconnaissance
A flight plan should be prepared in advance, taking account of any available information that may reduce the search area as much as possible. It should also take accountof any flight restrictions, some of which may be specifically imposed as a result of the spill. For example, it may be prohibited to fly over the shipping casualty, foreign or military airspace or certain
5 Figure 1: Use of aircraft allows a rapid understanding of the spread of floating oil and the effectiveness of any response
Introduction
Aerial reconnaissance is an important element ofeffective response to marine oil spills. It is used for assessing the location and extent of oil contamination and verifying predictions of the movement and fate of oil slicks at sea. Aerial surveillance provides information facilitating deployment and control of operations at sea, the timely protection of sites along threatened coastlines and the preparation of resources for shoreline clean-up. The...
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