The LiDAR topographic survey and orthophotography, completed in early 2022, provides high-resolution aerial photography, near-infrared imagery and 3D laser scans of the ground surface. As well as providing detailed information on the current appearance of our coastline, it is also used to identify man-made structures and landscape features threatened by erosion and sea level rise.

Marine archaeologists use this data to identify and assess archaeological and historical sites around the Northern Ireland coastline. These can include historic shipwrecks, medieval fish traps, monastic settlements, castles and fortifications, wharfs, slipways and industrial age seaweed farming sites. While many of the sites examined are registered in the Historic Environment Register of Northern Ireland (HERoNI), research has so far identified over 150 new heritage sites, 100 of which are under high tide and the rest at -above.

The discovery of a Royal Navy Dragonfly helicopter was an unexpected discovery during this work. Remains of aircraft structure were first spotted in aerial photos of Lough Foyle.

Drone image of helicopter site. Image courtesy of DAERA

Although badly corroded, the helicopter’s frame and its three rotor blades were mostly intact, with remnants of the “Royal Navy” stencil still discernible on the tail boom. Further research involving officials from the National Museum of the Royal Navy (Plymouth), the Fleet Air Arm Museum (Yeovilton) and the Ulster Aviation Society, identified the aircraft as an air-sea search and rescue helicopter naval Westland Dragonfly from 1955, based at Royal Naval Air Station Eglinton, now Derry City Airport. The helicopter had fallen on November 25, 1958, during a recovery exercise.

Further information on the discovery will be available on a new coastal information website, the Northern Ireland Coastal Observatory, which will be launched by DAERA in the near future.

Photo of a similar Dragonfly model in 1955. Image: Fleet Air Arms Officers Association
Jonny McNee, DAERA Marine Plan team, photographing the rotor and rotor blades of the discovered Royal Navy Dragonfly helicopter.
Helicopter drone image labeled. Image courtesy of DAERA
Looking towards the front of the helicopter, rotor on the right of the photo. Image courtesy of DAERA
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