Their powerful imaging and thermal equipment has been deployed on a wide variety of incidents in Derbyshire, 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 five 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 to 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 particular skillset alongside their primary role.
Hardyal Dhindsa, Police & Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire Police, agreed the increase in council tax precept 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, their 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.
Derbyshire’s fleet consists of two types of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (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 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 permitted to use drones in the search for missing people.
The Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation (PDMRO) covers Derbyshire and areas of Yorkshire, and their seven teams work closely with Derbyshire officers when co-ordinating searches.
Brendan O’Neill, who oversees the drone training of MRT members across Derbyshire, was given a new 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”.