Police in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset have embarked on a six-month trial of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones, to aid officers in a number of policing matters including missing people searches and crime scene photography.

Police in the region are able to call upon the services of two DJI Inspire 1 Drones, which are equipped with high definition (HD) cameras which can capture both video and still images.

Inspector Andy Hamilton from Devon and Cornwall Police, who is heading up the trial, said, “Drones offer many benefits that complement the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter. Using a drone to capture footage on difficult terrain and hard to reach areas such as cliffs, woodland or the moors to find a missing person, combat wildlife crime or even a firearm incident, will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly, safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”

Civil Aviation (CAA) regulations state that drone operators must pass a national CAA accredited qualification. Currently the force has three trained operators in place for the trial, including Insp Hamilton, with plans to train further officers should the trial prove successful.

Insp Hamilton added, “This technology has its limitations; the trial models are currently unable to fly at night or in adverse weather, but having the option to put a drone in the air in a few minutes’ notice could help save lives.

“Both drones have a HD downlink, which means officers on the ground can see live footage captured by the drone in the air. It can stay in the air for up to 18 minutes at a time before returning to the operator to change batteries.”

A new twitter account @DC_PoliceDrones will keep the public informed about where and when the drone is in operational use within Devon and Cornwall, as well as sharing operational footage and images of the drone in action.