South-West police launch drone unit

Forces for Devon, Cornwall and Dorset become the first to include drones in regular operations

Devon & Cornwall and Dorset Police have become the first police forces in the UK to launch a fully operational drone unit.

Back of police officer operating a droneThe unit has become fully active following trials going back to November 2015, and will be used for purposes such monitoring firearms incidents and policing the roads.

It is currently using a DJI Inspire drone equipped with a zoom camera and a thermal imaging for operational use 24 hours a day. The camera is HD/4K quality and can capture both video and still images.

The forces have also purchased a smaller DJI Mavic to test its portability as it is smaller and lighter in weight.

Initially there are six drones based in Plymouth and Dorset. Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, commander for the alliance operations department, said more will be added as extra officers receive the relevant training. At the moment five across the two forces are able to use the technology – having received training from the Civil Aviation Authority – but there are plans to add another 40 over the next 12 months.

Cutting edge approach

“This is an historic step for the alliance and policing in the UK,” he said. “Drone capability is a cutting edge way to support operational policing across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

“This technology offers a highly cost-effective approach in supporting our officers on the ground in operational policing.

“Drones will aid officers as part of missing person searches; crime scene photography; responding to major road traffic collisions; coastal and woodland searches and to combat wildlife crime.

“Drones can even help police track and monitor suspects during a firearm or terrorist incident, as it will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly, safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”

Traditionally aerial photos or videos have been captured by the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter, but the forces said the drone will provide a much better use of resources for some operations while the helicopters could be used for more serious incidents.

Image from Devon & Cornwall Police