Drone Unit expands to provide 24/7 cover across the county
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Since Derbyshire Constabulary’s Drone Unit was established last year, the small team of trained officers have been tireless in providing operational support across the county.
Their powerful imaging and thermal equipment has been deployed on a wide variety of incidents, including searching remote locations for missing people, providing aerial views of warrant enforcements, crowds policing at football fixtures and directing firefighters tackling wildfires.
However, demand on the small unit which consisted of just 5 trained officers has steadily increased as the full benefits of the drones have been realised.
Chief Constable Peter Goodman has always maintained he wanted the force have 24/7 drone capability. Now, as a direct result of extra investment through an increase in the council tax precept, Derbyshire Constabulary’s Drone Unit has expanded from 5 to 28 pilots, with officers trained to have this extra skill set alongside their primary role.
The increase in council tax precept was agreed by Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, following extensive consultation last year which showed overwhelming support across the county for increased investment in frontline policing.
Mr Dhindsa, said: “Use of technology to allow the force to do their job efficiently and effectively is one of my Priorities. With the Council Tax increase this year I am pleased that the Chief Constable is taking full advantage of drone technology to support our officers on the ground”.
The force now has 16 drones in total, based in Buxton, Chesterfield, Cotton Lane in Derby, our roads policing unit (RPU) and collision investigation. Pilot training has taken place in the last eight weeks and officers have now obtained their permissions for commercial operations from the Civil Aviation Authority.
Those pilots will be the ones flying the drones or operating the cameras whenever the units are deployed as they are well-versed in the regulations surrounding drone flight in the UK.
Our fleet consists of two types of UAV. The first is equipped with two cameras capable of either x30 optical zoom or thermal imaging. It has a durable body that means it can fly even in rain and high winds.
The second can shoot 4K UltraHD footage and has a lightweight body, designed to be deployed within minutes.
The footage is captured via a memory card, and then uploaded to our systems, in a similar way to our body worn camera evidence.
Assistant Chief Constable Kem Mehmet, said: “We’ve known for a long time that drones can give our officers a hugely advantageous tool to help us find missing people, monitor crime scenes, provide an aerial view of an ongoing incident, and many more.
“It was therefore critically important that we invested some of the council tax increase money into this technology and I am pleased that our pilot numbers have increased to provide that county-wide, 24/7 cover.
“The drones complement our other resources and more traditional policing methods and better equip our officers with the kit they need to serve the people of Derbyshire.
“The increase in the number of officers trained to pilot the drones will help us target resources appropriately, saving time, money and lives.”
Earlier this year, Buxton Mountain Rescue Team became the first in England and Wales to be given permission to use drones in the search for missing people. The Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation (PDMRO) covers Derbyshire and areas of Yorkshire and their 7 teams work closely with our officers when co-ordinating searches.
Brendan O’Neill, who oversees the drone training of MRT members across Derbyshire, was given an additional drone by PCC Dhindsa this morning. Mr O’Neill said:
“As a voluntary organisation, this new drone would have been a significant expense. Having a full setup supplied to us today by Derbyshire Constabulary will increase the operational capability of the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation and allow us to train up some new pilots.
This in turn will enable us to continue our joint working with the police on high-risk missing person searches throughout Derbyshire, and help provide situational awareness on other callouts.”
Our drone unit also has also supported Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, and with the increase in trained pilots, officers are looking at future opportunities to improve this partnership further.