Police drone operators have had their busiest year to date – with more deployments, arrests and interventions than ever before.
The team, founded in January 2020, deployed more than 1,100 times to support operations around the county, clocking up around 550 hours of flight time in the process.
With the aid of high-powered cameras and thermal imaging capabilities, the team was able to track down criminal suspects on 43 occasions, including two suspected vandals hiding in a back garden, a wanted man hiding in a caravan, and a trio of suspected thieves hiding in woodland.
Other notable arrests included a suspected drink-driver hiding in a bush in the dead of night.
The team, based at police HQ, provide 24/7 provide cover for emergency deployments and is also on hand to support pre-planned operations such as drug warrants and arrest attempts.
Finding missing people is also a vital part of the team’s work, as a single drone operator is able to effectively search large areas of ground in a matter of minutes. Twelve missing people have been found during the year.
In August of this year the team found a vulnerable and confused teenager who had gone missing from home. The boy was found by a lake in Bingham and immediately given the help he needed.
Ten stolen vehicles were also recovered by drone operators over the last 12 months as investigative teams made greater use of the force’s multiple eyes in the sky.
Drones have also supported colleagues at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service to fight and track more fires than ever before.
The drone team currently has access to 14 highly trained drone pilots who fit their flying duties around their other policing duties. They have access to a fleet of six drones, which was bolstered in April by the arrival of two smaller drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras.
Sergeant Vince Saunders, Chief Drone Pilot at Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Drone technology is slowly but surely changing the world around us. From farming to filmmaking, new applications for these small and inexpensive aircraft are being developed all the time – and the same is true in policing.
“We’ve had access to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for a long time, but these are a very expensive resource and are shared by police forces across the region.
“Our drones give us a cheap and readily available option to get a three-dimensional view of almost any situation and the results speak for themselves. Suspects who try to run have nowhere to hide and the lives of missing people can and have been saved by a drone deployment.
“The really exciting thing is that this is a technology that is developing all the time – giving us additional options for how to use it.”