Police drones – from fighting crime to saving lives, Nottinghamshire new police drone unit has had a busy first six months in operation.
The team, established to give a readily-available and cost-effective “eye in the sky” to officers on the ground, has helped to detain 39 suspects and find six vulnerable missing people.
Since going live on 1 January the team’s three drones, each equipped with thermal imaging cameras, have attended more than 300 incidents across the county.
PC Vince Saunders, chief pilot and one of 15 officers trained to operate the drones in addition to their core duties, explained: “In a very short space of time the drone unit has become an invaluable policing resource. Having that three-dimensional perspective can help officers out in nearly every conceivable police incident – from arrests and searches to crowd control and drugs raids.
“We can even use a police drone to quickly and accurately map the scenes of road traffic accidents. At first, they may have been a novelty, but our drones are now a central part of our response to so many incidents.”
Police air support, first provided in the UK by an airship at the 1921 Epsom Derby, has traditionally been provided by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft – both of which are capable of flying further than faster than drones.
However, whilst police drones will not replace these more traditional eyes in the sky, PC Saunders believes they will become an ever more common part of everyday policing.
He added: “The real advantage of our drones is in their versatility, cost-effectiveness and the speed in which they can be deployed. That means we’re now using them to help in situations where helicopter support just wouldn’t have been a viable or cost-effective option in the past.
“A good recent example is the arrest of a burglary suspect in Aspley. Arresting officers suspected he’d flee so requested support from one of our drones. As we suspected he did run away, hurdling hedges and fences in the process, but he couldn’t escape our eye in the sky. We’ve also been able to locate missing people very quickly – and in one case I am certain we saved somebody’s life in the process.”
The team, based at Hucknall Police Station, currently operate three police drones: two smaller units worth around £2,500 each and one larger, heavier drone with more powerful magnification and a thermal radiometric camera capable of accurately reading temperatures form hundreds of metres away. Consequently, the larger drone is also used to support Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service assess the scenes of fires.
PC Saunders added: “Obviously our drones are not cheap, but they are a one-off cost and they are providing fantastic value for money. They are keeping people safe, helping us to apprehend suspected offenders, and generally helping us to fight and investigate all manner of crime. That’s why I believe we’ll be using them a lot more in the future.”
In the police drone video above:
Nottinghamshire Police’s drone team supported response officers on the ground, guiding them as a man weaved through properties’ gardens and hopped over fences.In the footage, officers can be seen moving to intercept a man thanks to guidance from the drone team in the sky.
A man eventually stops and is safely detained by police in Woodfield Road. He is now being questioned in connection with reports of a burglary in Woodfield Road on 2 May 2020, Woolsington Close on 12 May 2020 and Cramwell Road on 18 May 2020.
Detective Inspector Kayne Rukas, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “A fantastic combined effort from our response officers, drone team and intelligence unit led to us locating and detaining a man who we are now questioning in connection with a report of burglary.
“A 30-year-old woman was also arrested on suspicion of obstructing a police officer, she remains in police custody for questioning.
“Nottinghamshire Police is committed to tackling burglary and will investigate all reports thoroughly. We work hard to establish the circumstances in each case and we always look to take appropriate action against offenders.”
If you are a victim of burglary, do not hesitate to contact 101 or in an emergency, dial 999.