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How are the Police using drones?

Last updated on

July 25, 2019


    For UK police forces, drone technology is now non-negotiable. Keeping drones out of the wrong hands and the wrong places is certainly a consideration, but drone technology also gives the police many advantages in their fight against crime.

    There is a range of police activities which drones are helping with, from taking photographs of crime scenes, to investigations in rural areas and searching for missing individuals. Police forces are quickly realising the benefits of having a fleet of different drones at their disposal to aid police operations. According to an independent study from HMICFRS (March 2017) “over 65% of UK ‘police forces ‘had either purchased at least one drone or had ready access to one,’ this number has grown exponentially and drones are now an integral part of police operations throughout the UK.

    Why do the police use drones?

    Drones are a fantastic addition to the police because they are adaptable and allow the police to be dynamic and diverse. The variety of operations are broad and can be pre-planned or reactive operations. The significant cost savings of using drones outweigh any initial outlay: for helicopter services, significant fuel cost savings are immediately obvious. Other uses include viewing the live feed of a drone-mounted HD camera to assess and document difficult terrain or dangerous situations, making them cost-effective as they save time and reduce staff risk.

    Drones are also useful in highly populated scenarios where it wouldn’t be possible to deploy a helicopter and is hard for people on the ground to accurately assess a situation. For example, the London Riots a few years ago may have been able to be managed more successfully if drones had been deployed to assess crowd situations in real-time.

    Which drones are being used by the police in the UK?

    Parrot Anafi Thermal

    A small, quick and effective drone best used in fast response situations. The drone camera is used to find Missing Persons, track down targets on the move and one police force is even using the thermal camera to find Cannabis Farms by locating high levels of heat from an aerial view.

    DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual

    The M2E is compact and doesn’t take up much space in the police vehicles which is important for units such as Armed Response. The M2E is also easy to assemble and quick to deploy and in operations such as an active foot pursuit, time is of the essence. The M2E also can be in the air extremely quickly enabling units to direct their officers on the ground.

    Flyability Elios 2 

    The ELIOS 2 is being used by police forces to explore high-risk buildings during operations before deploying police officers. The drones in these scenarios are being used to protect police officers from possible armed confrontations and alerting the suspect before the officers can make an arrest. The drone is also used for inspecting confined places that are too difficult for officers to access.

    Flyability Elios 2 Video


    We spoke to COPTRZ UAV Strategist Sam Denniff about the benefits of using the Parrot Anafi Thermal in the Emergency Services




    We asked PC Sean Benson how drones are used in West Yorkshire Police?

    “West Yorkshire Police are currently employing three types of drone to assist in day to day Operational Activities.

    • The quick response drone (as we like to call it) is the Parrot Anafi thermal. A lightweight yet fast and resilient small drone perfect for those fast-moving and quick time deployments.
    • Our intermediate drone is an Elios Flyability. A collision tolerant close inspection drone which we use for searching small enclosed and difficult to reach places or those where it is too dangerous to send staff.
    • Our largest drone is a Clogworks Dark Matter Quad (DMqD). Weather-resistant, with a long-range 30x optical camera and the most sensitive thermal camera available in the UK market today.

    This combination of tools allows us to support our officers on the ground with an array of policing activities. We do find ourselves mainly being requested to attend vulnerable and missing people, searching large open spaces, immediate search for wanted persons, scene containment, evidential photography, thermal imaging and pre-planned large scale events such football matches and carnivals. You may well have heard police drones at night or seen them close to events.

    In the last six months here in WYP we have seen some terrific results from our drone team, locating vulnerable missing people, finding vital evidence and coordinating staff to bring about arrests of those who would otherwise have escaped.

    Onwards and upwards as they say!”

    PC Sean Benson, UAV Operations Manager & Chief Pilot 


    Tweet’s from the action

    — West Yorkshire Police Drones (@WYP_Drones) July 18, 2019


    Want to find out more about using drones in the emergency services?

    Speak to our UAV Strategists and find out which drones you should think about adding to your fleet. As well as specialist drones we also act as a training provider for emergency services throughout the UK. Contact us using the form below and we’d be happy to chat through your options.


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