Devon and Somerset Air Ambulance (DSAA) are set to benefit from a share of a £200,000 cash boost to help helicopters land safely in poor weather conditions.

The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates flights across the UK, has announced the DSAA are set to benefit from fresh funds as part of the Global Navigation Satellite System scheme.

Ordinarily, cloud cover can prevent the airborne medics fro reaching patients in need. Poor visibility has also led to teams becoming stranded in a field or hospital, resulting in a loss of operating hours.

However, the new scheme will allow airfield approaches to be made without reliance solely on instruments or ground-based systems. Instead, satellites will deliver information to the craft which will enable landings when visibility would otherwise make the landing prohibitive.

In a statement the DSAA said: "Traditionally, aircraft flying to an airfield have used ground-based systems to enable them to make an approach to their destination.

"The aircraft can pick up signals from the ground-based system that then interact with onboard systems to give the pilot directional and height cues, enabling them to make a safe approach to the runway; autopilot systems on modern aircraft are also able to use this information to fly these approaches without pilot intervention.

The new programme will enable medics to reach patients in spite of cloud cover
The new programme will enable medics to reach patients in spite of cloud cover (DSAA)

"With the advent of GNSS satellites and the 3D information they can provide, airfield approaches can now be made without having to rely on the ground-based systems, if the aircraft is fitted with the appropriate equipment.

"In the case of above, A GNSS approach would have enabled the aircraft to return to base, be restocked and re-equipped ready for another job that evening, and subsequently available for the day crew to respond to further taskings the next day.

"As DSAA’s AW169 helicopter is equipped to carry out GNSS approaches and our pilots are licenced to fly them, the charity submitted a bid to the CAA at the end of September 2022.

"We are delighted with the news that Henstridge Airfield is now part of the GNSS programme as it fully supports the charity’s commitment to reaching more patients who need critical care."