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Police to trial drone technology

Police in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset are to embark on a six-month trial of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, to aid officers in a number of policing matters including missing people searches and crime scene photography. 

Dorset Police is currently undertaking final preparations and is due to begin trialling two drones – a Phantom 2 plus + and a DJI Inspire – from Thursday 26 November 2015.

From today, Monday 2 November 2015, police in Devon and Cornwall will begin their trial and will be able to call upon the services of two DJI Inspire 1 Drones.

The drones are equipped with high definition (HD) cameras which can capture both video and still images.

Inspector Andy Hamilton, who is leading the trials as part of the Alliance Operations department, said: “Drones offer many benefits that complement the National Police Air Service (NPAS) Helicopter and is by no means a replacement for this service.

“This technology offers a potentially highly cost effective approach to missing person searches, crime scene photography, and responding to major road traffic collisions.

“Using a drone to capture footage on difficult terrain and hard to reach areas such as cliffs or woodland to find a missing person, combat wildlife crime or even a firearm incident, will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly, safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations state that drone operators must pass a national CAA accredited qualification.

Devon and Cornwall currently has three trained operators in place for the trial, including Inspector Hamilton, and there are plans to train further officers should the trial prove to be a success.

Dorset currently also has three trained pilots.

Insp Hamilton added: “This technology still has its limitations; the models we are trialling are currently unable to fly at night or in adverse weather, but having the option to put a drone in the air in a few minutes’ notice could help save lives.

“The drones have a HD downlink which means officers on the ground can see live footage captured by the drone in the air. It can stay in the air for up to 18 minutes at a time before returning to the operator to change batteries. Each drone has several batteries and therefore can be kept operational for a prolonged period of time if required.”

Issued: 2 November 2015