In readiness for disaster relief operations : Navy launches air boat | Sunday Observer

In readiness for disaster relief operations : Navy launches air boat

Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne handing over a miniature replica of the air boat to Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi

Rescue and relief operations during floods in Sri Lanka always face challenges in heavily built up and thickly populated areas. The floods that played havoc in the country in May last year experienced a situation where flood relief operators encountered difficulty, as they had to wade through shallow water filled with debris to reach people marooned in the floods.

Since it was risky to manoevre boats on these waters filled with debris, the Security Forces personnel, well trained in rescue and relief operations had to be deployed for the operations, while also deploying men familiar with the area to guide them to the marooned people.

However, the lack of boats suitable for such operations was a major deterrent during the rescue and flood relief operations, as the fibre glass boats fitted with outboard motors were frequently hit by the debris.

As a solution, the Sri Lanka Navy’s Research and Development Unit which invented arrow boats to fight with the flotilla of Tiger boats in the territorial waters of the country, has come up with its latest production ‘air boats’ to make flood relief operations easy. The Sri Lanka Navy launched its latest innovation ‘Air boat’ manufactured with the technical know how and expertise of the Sri Lanka Navy, recently, at the Kajugaha Kumbura Lake, in the Welisara Naval Base with the participation of Defence Secretary, Karunasena Hettiarachchi and Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne.

“The special feature of this air boat is, its propeller is fixed well above the water level, so that in rescue missions where naval personnel need to pull people in distress off water, it will cause no harm to the people and the boat itself,” Navy Spokesman Captain Akram Alawi said, explaining the features of the new product.

The basic structure of the air boat and related informative know-how were given by Commodore Priyantha Perera, a specialist in Naval Diving, he added.

In the market, this type of air boat costs around Rs 12.5 million. However, due to the expertise of the Research and Development Unit, they managed to invent this product at a relatively low cost, around Rs 1.7 million.

“The air boat is only the initial prototype version, and we expect to build a larger version which can carry up to 10-15 people on board very soon”, the Navy Spokesman added.

A significant feature is, there is nothing underwater in this boat and it can be operated in less depth and even under debris.

“In the boats fitted with outboard motors the propellers are outside and the chance of getting them non operational is greater during flood relief operations.

We faced such situations during the flood relief operations last year in the Colombo suburb areas”, he added.

The bigger version of the air boat will be called, Sky boat, and would cost the Research and Development Unit of the Navy Rs.4.7 million, the market value of which is around Rs 22.5 million, Captain Alawi said.

He said, such boats are available in other countries for disaster relief operations.

This particular design and technical know how is attributed to the credit of the Research and Development Unit of our Naval officers.

“We will produce these boats in the future for the use of the Sri Lanka Navy for disaster relief operations”, he added.

He said, the Research and Development Unit of the Sri Lanka Navy has also embarked on several other development projects, such as, a fire boat to extinguish fires out at sea, which has been a long felt need for the country, and is still in the testing stage. 

The air boat produced by the Sri Lanka Navy launched at Welisara Navy Base