HEAT-SENSITIVE cameras that have already saved the lives of two people could be used to help prevent deaths in York rivers.

The thermal imaging cameras provide high resolution images and can detect changes in water temperature, and automatically alert emergency services when a person falls in.

This week, City of York Council confirmed the authority was aware of a pilot set up by researchers at the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab, and had “engaged our CCTV suppliers” to find out more.

The 5G-enabled thermal imaging cameras were installed in Bristol Harbour as part of a trial with Bristol City Council in October 2018, and researchers said they had already helped save the lives of two people who entered the water by the time the pilot ended in March.

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, director of the Smart Internet Lab, said: “The next step would be to introduce the cameras across the entire harbour and the city.

“It could eventually be able to send very high-resolution images to ambulance staff as they move to the site, allowing them to see the state of the person they are rescuing. They are going to be able to give informed advice to other people who are trying to help.”

Four people have drowned in York’s rivers in the last month, leading to calls from grieving families for more to be done to prevent future deaths and a £45,000 appeal to buy a new rescue boat for the city.

A City of York Council spokeswoman said: “We already have coverage of the hotspots where people go into the river. Our CCTV operators monitor the river and have on several occasions spotted people in distress and directed emergency services to them. As a result our operators have saved lives.

“The pilot in Bristol with new video analytic technology appears to be automating the detection, which may improve the detection rate further and allow monitoring to be rolled out to a wider area.

"For this reason, we are keen to learn the lessons of the Bristol experiment and are engaging with our suppliers regarding detection capabilities.”

Six people died in Bristol’s waterways in 2017, with alcohol considered a factor in 63 drownings in the city since 2014, compared with 64 in North Yorkshire, according to the university.

The scheme was part of a wider project by the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to roll out a 5G network which would connect traffic lights, police and emergency services to improve response time and safety in the city, and a Bristol City Council spokesperson said the authority was also “engaging with Government to see if we can secure funding to continue the project”.

David Walker of the Royal Society of Prevention of Accidents said more cities should consider using this type of technology.

He said: “This offers a solution in an urban environment where there can be a rapid response. We feel very positive about the technology.”