The Aerial Patrol was formed in 1957. The Patrol’s charter to maintain the safety and the welfare of the community through aerial observation and support and forms the basis for which all operations and activities are conducted.
In 1993, the Australian Aerial Patrol was recognised by the then Civil Aviation Authority as strategically well positioned, geographically, for Search and Rescue (SAR). As a result the Aerial Patrol was appointed as an Accredited Civil SAR Unit. This was expanded in 2001 to a Tier 1 SAR capability – the highest level of civilian SAR in the Commonwealth and only one of three such organisations in the nation. Also in that year, a Working Agreement between the Aerial Patrol and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard was formalised by the then NSW Minister for Emergency Services.
The Australian Aerial Patrol, as a Registered Charity, relies extensively on a wide range of community fundraising mechanisms to offset operational costs. The promotion of annual art unions is without doubt the Aerial Patrol’s most successful fundraiser. Corporate sponsorship and support from various Registered Clubs, Councils and local companies also inject funding towards operations. A number of fundraising functions are conducted throughout the year and together with proceeds from NSW Air, raise the $500,000 plus needed each year to ensure the continued operation of the Patrol's activities.
The Australian Aerial Patrol is probably most widely known for its regular Shark Spotting and Beach Safety Patrols along the coastline between Sydney's Palm Beach and Mollymook on the NSW South Coast. These patrols are undertaken on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays throughout the course of summer and constitute an observation platform for recreational safety be it, swimming, surfing, boating, fishing, bushwalking and the like, as well as maintaining a watchful eye on potential bushfire hazards. The Aerial Patrol is also available to respond to an emergency 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In recent years, the Australian Aerial Patrol has expanded its level of service to the communities of the south east region of New South Wales and through its affiliation with the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association, to the regional inland centres throughout NSW. An accreditation under the State Rescue Policy, administered by the NSW Rescue and Emergency Services Board, provides the necessary authority to the Aerial Patrol to assist and support all land and marine based emergency services when appropriate.