The UK’s First Police Drone Unit Launches in Devon and Cornwall

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Drones have been used to shoot video, deliver packages and even help the military. Police forces in the UK have a new use for them: tracking and searching.

Devon and Cornwall are two counties on the southern tip of England. Today they cooperatively launched the UK’s first operational police drone unit. The two counties’ respective police forces have been going through trial runs for the new technology since November 2015.

The exact models of drone units being put into service are the DJI Inspire and the DJI Maveric. These will be used full-time to support police operations in a number of areas.

Drones offer a number of advantages compared to traditional police tactics. Firstly, they’re dirt cheap compared to older methods. Police helicopters cost up to £800 ($1050 USD) per hour to run, while a single drone – with almost unlimited use – costs about £2000 ($2600 USD). Of course drones cannot replace helicopters for something like a rescue mission, but if police simply need aerial photos of a crime scene, this technology can save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On top of budgetary reasons, a drone’s high quality live feed can show both natural and thermal imaging. This aids in suspect or missing person tracking efforts in hard to reach places like forests or coastal areas, and if you check out a map, Devon and Cornwall have quite a bit of both.

“It’s fantastic to see both forces working together to lead the way in utilizing new, cutting-edge technology,” said Drone Team Manager Andy Hamilton. “Having previously been a police officer for 30 years, I have seen how technology has changed and can help us become more efficient in what we are trying to achieve.”

Across both cities’ police forces, five officers total are trained to use drone technology. Over the next year, they plan to train 40 more in civil aviation and become accredited to use them.

The US has been using drones to monitor its borders for over 10 years with other agencies adopting their use soon after.

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