Police officers in Norfolk will be using drones to help search for missing people, obtain crime scene photography and investigate rural crime, as a three-month trial of the technology announced by the Norfolk Constabulary begins.
The miniature aircraft will be used as part of operational policing in line with a commitment from Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green to use 21st-Century technology to prevent and detect crime. There are currently four trained drone operators within the force, and this will be extended if the trial is successful, said the force.
The organisation said it is using one DJI Inspire and one DJI Mavic, valued at £1,500 and £850 respectively, that can fly in winds of up to 50 mph (80 kph). Both unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) boast a 4K downlink, allowing officers on the ground and in the Contact and Control Room (CCR) to see live footage captured by the drone in the air. The technology has already been used during incidents within the county, including forensic photography at an industrial incident, firearms incidents and searches.
Deputy Chief Constable Nick Dean said: “The drones will now be available to assist officers across the county, and while we're a long way off drones becoming standard kit in a police car, the early indications are they will be a positive contribution to the policing of Norfolk.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green commented: “For our police to be as efficient and effective as possible, it’s vital they have the right tools. When it comes to tackling the crime affecting our communities in the 21st Century, we need to be looking at the 21st-Century technology available to us. For some time now I've been calling for Norfolk Police to explore the potential that drones offer. It’s early days, but I’m pleased to see the trial is showing signs there are benefits for the Force in the use of drones. I’ll be following the pilot with interest as it continues.”
Sgt Danny Leach, who was the first officer to be trained to fly the drones, said: “Every incident which requires air support currently costs the Constabulary £1,320. Although the drones aren’t suitable for every deployment, there are certain situations which they are perfect for. To get the overall project operational it has cost less than £8,000, giving the Constabulary the capability of two operational drones and four qualified pilots. If we can successfully deploy to just six incidents, we would have saved enough money to pay for them again.” He added: “I firmly believe the drones represent the future partnership of technology and policing. If successful, which I am sure it will be; there are some exciting plans that can be developed to ensure a cost-effective, efficient and advanced police force.