New 'flying squad' will free up officers

20 March 2017

Plans for a new 24-hour police drone unit will help free up officers and provide an improved service to the public.

Phill Matthews, the Federation’s lead for the National Police Air Service (NPAS), was talking after it was revealed that Devon and Cornwall will launch the new service in the summer and share it with Dorset.

He said: “It is not going to take jobs away from existing police numbers. In fact it will free up officers’ time as the drones will be able to carry out tasks – in some cases much more quickly and more safely, such as locating vulnerable missing persons in hard to reach areas – using less manpower.”

Mr Matthews said the drones would come into their own in areas with challenging geography. “Devon and Cornwall has probably one of the biggest areas to police and has a huge amount of coastline, some of which is inaccessible. Where there is a need to conduct searches for vulnerable missing persons or suspects or recover evidence, the use of a drone enables you to cover some quite dangerous and unsafe terrain really quickly and safely," he said.

“You can also take pictures for a variety of planning and investigative reasons, in fact all sorts of photographic tasks that would otherwise involve a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft, both of which are considerably more expensive to operate.”

Mr Matthews was speaking on BBC Radio 5Live this morning as media reports revealed that Devon and Cornwall Police had advertised for a drone manager to lead its new dedicated unit.

Mr Matthews said it was important that drone operation was controlled by police forces, who would be properly licensed, comply with air navigation orders and be regulated by surveillance laws, but it would be important to monitor costs to ensure value for money.