Continue to invest in more advanced drones
In his 2016 manifesto the Police and Crime Commissioner pledged to work with Dorset Police to improve Force technology and infrastructure. One such area was a commitment to invest in more advanced drone technology, a tool that the PCC considered able to have a major impact on the way policing is conducted, particularly in relation to responding to missing person reports, capturing crimes in action and recording evidence of major incidents, such as serious road traffic collisions.
A trial of the use of drones for operational policing purposes commenced in November 2015, during the PCC’s first term of office.
This six-month pilot demonstrated their value in capturing still or video images on difficult terrain and hard to reach locations for issues including missing people, wildlife crime and even support for armed response incidents. The success of the pilot not only led to the PCC’s manifesto commitment in 2016 but saw the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Alliance launch the country’s first dedicated drone unit in the summer of 2017.
Drones are used in conjunction with the National Police Aviation Service (NPAS) air support provision, with non-urgent requests for air support always considered by the drone team in the first instance.
There have been particular benefits in providing support to operational policing colleagues for road traffic collision responses, crime scene photography and the policing of football matches and other major events. Being relatively covert, drones have also been deployed in support of surveillance and intelligence gathering on some occasions.
Alongside this, given the general increase in drone usage by the public for recreational purposes, the team have developed a successful ‘Safer Drone’ education programme. This programme provides advice and guidance on the safe and lawful use of drones – particularly given the often inadvertent risks they can potentially cause in terms of safety and security.
Speaking about the drone initiative as part of national case study, the PCC said: “My office was pivotal in driving the establishment of the Alliance Drone Team. I’ve seen first-hand how deploying drones at a road crash can reduce the impact on the public, especially in rural Dorset on the A35. Drones can capture 3D imagery and information from the scene in minutes rather than hours, and roads can be reopened much quicker.
“They are also invaluable in helping with searches for missing people. I am convinced policing can take huge steps forward with this approach. Deploying a drone costs a fraction of the cost of a helicopter and they can also be used when a helicopter is unavailable.”