Sussex IFCA has a range of operational assets, including patrol vehicles, marine patrol vessels, specialist survey equipment and a Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA).


Our sea going capability is delivered through our Fisheries Patrol Vessels (FPV) ‘Watchful’ and ‘Merlin’. These assets enable us to have a good picture of activity in our district and enable us to inspect vessels at sea. Both vessels have their own dedicated berths in Shoreham Harbour and are regularly seen patrolling on enforcement duties and carrying out marine research. The vessels are looked after by IFCAs Marine Operations Manager and crewed by qualified and experienced officers and research staff. Both patrol vessels are available for appropriate charters.


Watchful is the main fisheries patrol platform for Sussex IFCA; constructed to support modern inshore fisheries management needs. Watchful is a bespoke design patrol vessel, purpose built in Finland and delivered to Sussex IFCA in 2003. She is an 18-metre vessel with twin Caterpillar engines that can take her at a speed of 23 knots throughout the IFCA District. Watchful has its own RIB; situated on the stern for easy launching into the sea, which can be used to come alongside fishing vessels for boardings and inspections. Watchful’s high technical specification and build quality provides a safe, robust, well equipped and comfortable platform from which a wide range of marine operations can be conducted.

FPV Watchful Brochure

Merlin is the second IFCA vessel and is a purpose built 8m RIB. Merlin can operate independently out to sea and up in to the district’s estuaries; fulfilling a survey/research role if required to do so. Merlin was built in Liverpool in 2013 and is constructed to a stringent military specification, as such provides a reliable and robust inshore platform from which marine operations can be conducted.

FPV Merlin Brochure


Sussex IFCA have recently procured a drone to assist with fisheries enforcement. Drones are Small Unmanned Aircrafts (SUA), within Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) as defined by the Civil Aviation Authority. Drones are typically miniature aircrafts controlled from the ground by a pilot; they can have various camera attachments and have recording capabilities.

The use of drones is seen widely across law enforcement agencies, in the detection of crimes and the evidencing of offences. Drones can be used in dynamic environments, as a fast response to monitor, record and evidence illegal activity that may not otherwise be seen, as well as being used for routine observations and checks.

The drone used by Sussex IFCA for fisheries enforcement and management is the DJI M300 RTK, fitted with a H20T camera. The camera features a laser rangefinder, thermal imaging, zoom and wide-angle functions, which in addition to GPS technology, will assist the detection and evidencing of fisheries offences. The drone will also be used for management and policy functions, to observe and monitor Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and other areas of environmental concern.

Sussex-IFCA drone and pilot
Sussex-IFCA drone and female pilot
Sussex-IFCA drone and male pilot


Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are small remote-controlled aircraft. The drone is piloted from the ground by a person who has undergone training and proven a level of competence. Drones typically have other equipment on board, such as a device to captures images allowing it to take photographs and videos.

Sussex IFCA owns a DJI Matrice 300 RTK drone with a single Zenmuse H20T camera. The drone has a maximum flight time of 55 minutes, a maximum speed of 23 m/s and can fly in wind speeds of up to 33 mph. The Zenmuse H20T is a quad-sensor camera with a 20 MP zoom and 12 MP wide angle. The camera has 1200m laser range finder and thermal imaging capabilities, allowing it to capture images and video footage during the day and night.

The drones can legally be flown to a maximum height of 400ft (120m). This limit is set by the Civil Aviation Authority so drones do not interfere with aircraft which operate just above at 500ft.

The M300 drone is powered by rechargeable batteries and fully charged these can allow a maximum flight time of 55 minutes.

Sussex IFCA will be using the drone as an extra resource to supplement our compliance responsibilities. The enhanced capability it offers using the onboard camera to record evidence of possible offences from perspectives not previously possible, will act as a deterrent and improve the prevention and detection of offences.

Sussex IFCA will raise awareness of drone use mainly through its website and social media (twitter, Instagram and facebook). The use of a drone will be highlighted through Sussex IFCA’s communications both with the commercial and recreational fishing sectors and the wider community. Sussex IFCA shellfish permit holders may receive directed correspondence on drone use.

Absolutely not. We want the fishing community to be aware of drone use, furthermore, when in use the drone will be operated overtly in full view of the community by officers in Sussex IFCA uniform. When used in relation to the fishing industry, the drone will be used primarily as a evidence gathering tool in the detection of offences, however this will also serve to support legitimate fishers by demonstrating their compliance with regulations to the Authority and wider community, with first-hand evidence obtained through the drone deployment.

The drone will be flown by Sussex IFCA officers who will be assisted by other officers in the role of Observers. Only officers who are trained will be permitted to fly the Sussex IFCA drone. This will consist of completing a GVC VLOS course through an accredited Civil Aviation Authority trainer and operating under a Civil Aviation Authority Authorisation.

All officers who fly the Sussex IFCA drone will have completed and passed a rigorous training course (the same taken by UK Emergency Services), furthermore they will all have passed the relevant qualifications as set by the Civil Aviation Authority and be required to fulfil a minimum number of flying hours to maintain and build on existing skills.

The drones must follow all Civil Aviation Authority regulations and fly within 500m of the pilot. The drones cannot fly outside of the pilot’s line of sight unless a second pilot is used.

Yes, Sussex IFCA drone operations comply with all UK law as determined by the Civil Aviation Authority with regards to the use of drones. This includes registration of the drone with the Civil Aviation Authority, having in place a certified Operation Manual, only being flown by appropriately trained persons, and complying with various restrictions with regards to where and how the drone is flown.

Data (e.g., video and photographic images) will only be recorded where it is necessary, such as to record evidence of potentially offences. Data which is recorded for evidential purposes will be kept securely, as required under data protection laws, and only be maintained for the duration of the investigation.

Yes, we have completed the Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) self-assessment tool to ensure that our use of drones complies with the Code of Practice. You can download a copy of our report to find out more. We have also completed a specific Privacy Notice for the drone.

Yes, where appropriate and possible Sussex IFCA intend to work with partner agencies under Section 174 of Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

Any views can be shared with Sussex IFCA via the Contact Us section on our website and webform available. Alternatively, Officers will be happy to speak with you if you have any queries when you see them on patrol.


In 2020, Sussex IFCA received a grant from the Environment Agency to fund work in relation to monitoring impacts from the trawling byelaw. This grant allowed us to upgrade our towed video system for their surveys and purchase an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the BlueROV2 from Blue Robotics.

This is a light weight and manoeuvrable piece of equipment that will be invaluable for survey areas that are unsuitable for towed video.

The ROV will also be available for scientific projects that come out of the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project partnership.

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Sussex IFCA
12A Riverside Business Centre
Brighton Rd
West Sussex
BN43 6RE

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