Police drones – the new investigation tool of choice

24 March 2017

This week saw the news that Devon and Cornwall police will be launching the first ever 24-hour drone unit in the UK. Following a trial period starting in November last year the new permanent unit, in place from this summer, will be shared with Dorset and will be used to for locating missing persons to assisting in road traffic accidents.

The use of drones by forces is not new. Last April Sussex and Surrey police were granted £250,000 to invest in 4 new Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (“UAVs”), able to fly at speeds of 30mph. They currently hold 5 Aeryon SkyRangers and have 40 qualified remote pilots to Civil Aviation Authority (“CAA”) standards.

Furthermore, as the CAA register shows, there are a number of other forces currently permitted to operate drones: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire; Devon & Cornwall and Dorset; Essex; Gwent; Kent; the Met; Northamptonshire; South Wales; Staffordshire; Surrey and Sussex; West Midlands – who used theirs in October 2016 to control a Birmingham City and Aston Villa match; and West Yorkshire.

In an ever increasing AI world, the growing use of UAVs is unsurprising. Using technology in an attempt to improve efficiency and effectiveness is becoming the norm – from drones checking planning applications and coastal erosion to automated airport check in – technology is advancing. Some are concerned that this means police forces will be cut, whilst others say it will free up already strained resources, enhance policing and reducing their carbon footprint. I agree. The increasing time and work pressures placed on officers need alleviating and so long as properly managed, the growth in drone use will allow for proper investigative work alongside freeing up resources used on the National Police Air Service (“NPAS”) helicopter.

So it is clear, beyond the use in fashion and shopping deliveries, the use of this low cost tool is growing exponentially.  And if you are ever wondering where those police drones are, just follow one of their dedicated web pages or Twitter accounts….

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