Those attending the Balmoral Show this year will be watched over by a helpful new “eye in the sky”.
A helium-filled hot air balloon, about 10-by-seven feet in size, will be permanently hovering above the arena at a height of around 150ft while tethered to the ground.
Following last year’s difficulties with access to the site, it is hoped the balloon will assist organisers by giving them a birds-eye view of traffic flows and crowds as they build up.
In addition to having a high-definition camera in it, capable of zooming in-and-out, it also has a thermal imaging camera and, if necessary, it can be turned into a kind of airborne floodlight too – although these latter two functions are unlikely to be used.
It is being run by SkyWatchNI, the Northern Irish division of the Civil Air Patrol, a search-and-rescue charity.
The equipment was donated by a firm called Search Systems Ltd, based in Belfast, which also contributed a ground trailer for the monitoring team.
Head of sales Michael Thompson said: “I think it’s just to see the traffic on the approach so they can see the surrounding roads, traffic build-up and to assist with parking.”
Founded only this year, the firm employs four staff and this will be the first real test of its technology, which it hopes to sell on to the coastguard and emergency services.
Mr Thompson said whilst helicopters are limited by the amount of time they can stay airborne, these balloons can stay up for around two days before they need to re-fuel.
. UTV has released details of the coverage it will be giving to the Balmoral Show. Starting tonight and running until Friday, it will broadcast UTV LIVE updates at 6.25pm each evening, and then a half-hour highlights show at 6.45pm on Sunday.