SWITCHED-ON police in Devon are reaching for the skies by becoming the first force in the UK to establish a Drone Unit.
Colleagues in Cornwall and Dorset will be part of the pioneering fleet of six flying drones extending operations to the heavens.
Chief Supt Jim Nye said: ‘This is a historic step for policing in the UK. Drone capability is a cutting edge way to support operational policing across the three counties.
‘This technology offers a highly cost-effective approach in supporting our officers on the ground in operational policing.’
He insisted: ‘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.’
He added: ‘They can even help police track and monitor suspects during a firearms or terrorist incident, allowing officers to gain vital information quickly and safely and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.
‘Being the first police forces in the country to have a stand-alone, fully operational drone unit is a great source of pride, 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 this new technology. Having previously been a police officer for 30 years, I have seen how technology has changed and how itcan help us become more efficient in what we are trying to achieve.
The Drone Unit is currently using a DJI Inspire drone equipped with a zoom camera and a thermal imaging facility to allow for operational use 24 hours a day. The camera can capture both video and still images.
There are currently have six drones in operational us in Plymouth and Dorset. 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 said: ‘At present we have five officers trained across both forces. Over the next twelve months we are aiming to have a further 40 officers complete their Civil Aviation 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 officer’s increases.’