Surrey and Sussex Police have acquired four new state-of-the-art drones. The Aeryon SkyRangers will add to the existing one which has been used to support policing operations at Gatwick since March 2014. The drones – also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – are designed to be used to safeguard people and to assist with the investigation of crime. They are capable of operating during daylight and after dark, in high wind and heavy rain, and can reach speeds of about 30mph.
Surrey and Sussex Police have been awarded almost £250,000 to fund the high-security devices. The new equipment means the project is the largest of any force in the UK.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, head of Surrey and Sussex Police Operations, said: “We have invested significantly in training 38 operators to CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) accredited standard to give us every opportunity to use drones when appropriate to do so to critically assess the benefits. “Our project, operating five drones, is by far the largest in the UK, and there are a number of forces around the country that are commencing drone trials and the information from their trials will be incorporated into our report.”
Trained officers in Surrey and Sussex have used the existing drone for multiple operations over the past two years, including missing person searches, protestor responses, airport security and crash scene investigations. The money has been granted from the Home Office through the Police Innovation Fund, which rewards creative, collaborative and cost-saving projects aimed at transforming policing.
A three-month operational trial will now commence and the five drones will be deployed to Eastbourne Neighbourhood Response Team, Guildford Targeted Patrol Team, Gatwick Armed Response Vehicles, Shoreham Forensic Collision Investigation and Reconstruction Unit, and Lewes Operations Command Search and Operations Planning. The objective of the trial is to critically assess the benefits of employing drone technology: both within a wide range of policing functions with a view to enable efficiency savings, and also to increase public and officer safety.
Assistant Chief Constable Barry added: “We have consulted extensively with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC), both of whom are satisfied with the approach we have taken over privacy and data protection. The OSC recently saw the Gatwick drone being operated and was impressed with our operational protocols. “Our drone operations will be overt, open and transparent, and we will use all outlets available to us to ensure the public are informed of our drone use. Finally, I must stress drones are not a replacement for the NPAS police helicopter; they are complementary to it.”
Anyone flying a drone in the UK has a responsibility to be aware of the rules that are in place to keep everyone safe. Full details can be found online at http://www.caa.co.uk/.
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