Devon & Cornwall, Dorset Police launch drone unit

Chief Superintendent Jim Nye and Drone Team Manager Andy Hamilton (Devon & Cornwall Police / Dorset Police)
(Devon & Cornwall Police / Dorset Police)

In the UK, Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police launched a fully operational drone unit on 13 July.

The neighbouring forces have trialled UAV technology since November 2015 and have seen sufficient benefit to create an operational drone unit, which they said is the first of its kind in the UK.

Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, commander for the Alliance Operations Department, said: “This is an historic step for the Alliance and policing in the UK. Drone capability is a cutting edge-way to support operational policing across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.” He said the technology offers a highly cost-effective means to support officers on the ground in missions including missing person searches, crime scene photography, responding to major road traffic collisions, coastal and woodland searches and to combat wildlife crime, and firearm or terrorist incidents. He added: “Being the first police forces in the country to have a stand-alone, fully operational drone unit is a great source of pride for the Alliance, and proves that we continue to work hard to find innovative ways to adapt to the ever-changing policing landscape.”

Drone Team Manager Andy Hamilton, said: “It is fantastic to see both forces working together to lead the way in utilising new, cutting-edge technology. Having previously been a police officer for 30 years, I have seen how technology has changed and can help us become more efficient in what we are trying to achieve. An example of this is historically, any aerial photos or videos have been captured by The National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter; this is not always the best use of resources. Instead of always sending a helicopter on an hour’s flight to take a few photos of a crime scene, we can now use a drone to carry out the same task.” Hamilton expressed his belief that the technology will complement NPAS by allowing helicopters to be available for more serious incidents.

The Drone Unit is equipped with DJI Inspire drones equipped with a zoom camera and a thermal imaging to allow for operational use 24 hours a day. The camera is HD/4K quality and can capture both video and still images. The forces stated they have also purchased a DJI Mavic, which is smaller and lighter than the Inspire, to test its portability. The Unit has six drones in operational use based in Plymouth and Dorset, said the forces. In the coming months, drones will be in roads policing vehicles across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, offering on the move, 24/7 support to operational policing across the Alliance.

Chief Supt Nye, explained: “At present we have five officers trained across both forces. Over the next twelve months we are aiming to have a further 40 officers having completed their Civil Aviation [Authority] (CAA) training, [allowing] them to be fully accredited and enable them to operate the drone. We will also be adding to the number of drones we have as the number of trained officers increases.”

NPAS released a statement on 13 July saying: “NPAS is supporting the use of drones in policing and is committed to achieving their effective, ethical and safe operation as part of the overall capability available for policing from the air.”

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