Using Drones for Public Safety

Using Drones for Public Safety

Heliguy look at the benefits of drones in public safety focussing on the police, firefighters, disaster relief and search and rescue.

Last updated: Dec 14, 2021

10 minute read

Using Drones for Police and Public Safety - heliguy™ Insider recently spoke with Tom Nash from Raptor Aerial Imaging who had been using drones as part of a feasibility test mountain search and rescue in Scotland. Tom used equipment supplied by heliguy™ to complete the test, including a Matrice 210, Zenmuse Z30 zoom camera and a thermal Zenmuse XT camera. Following the tests completed by Tom, we have been looking at uses of drones for public safety and the recommended equipment available for use in these areas. Keep reading to find out the different areas of public safety drones are currently being used.


Drones and Payloads

Over recent years, drones have evolved from a potential toy fad to a useful tool that can be used for inspection, surveying and even helps save lives. This was done through the development of the technology and capability of both the drones and their compatible payloads. Drones can offer an efficient solution to assisting operation that’s significantly cheaper than original methods such as helicopters. Let’s look at some of the drones and payloads that are chosen by public services. Matrice 200 Series - The Matrice 200 Series was revolutionary to DJI as part of the enterprise world. With an IP43 rating, dual downward cameras or a single upward facing camera, the M200s offered a hardy drone with quick and simple setup, capable of operating in harsher conditions than ever before. The series has become a popular choice for public and private sector companies from a range of different areas including public safety. The M200s are compatible with a number of the Zenmuse camera series including the XT and Z30. DJI Inspire 2 - The Inspire 2 from DJI is a flexible aircraft, available with a range of cameras designed to be flexible for the user’s needs. Compatible cameras are capable of up to 6K video and 24MP stills. Zenmuse XT - The Zenmuse XT is a thermal camera made through a collaboration between DJI and FLIR. Featuring high-sensitivity at 50mK and practical uses for analytics and telemetry. Compatible with the Matrice Series, Inspire 1 and the dedicated app the DJI XT Pro. Zenmuse Z30 - The Zenmuse Z30 is a zoom camera with an optical zoom up to 30x and digital up to 6x. This impressive camera can be used to capture clear images for a multitude of purposes. Compatible with the Matrice Series and made for industrial applications and public services. Keep reading to find out more about the areas drones can assist with public safety. Matrice 210 with Zenmuse Z30

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue is a key area of public safety where drones can be effective tools for locating targets and assessing the requirements of the individual search and rescue operation. Recommended Kit - Matrice 210 with Zenmuse XT and Zenmuse Z30. Smaller drone from the Phantom 4 or Mavic Series. The key area in which drones can be beneficial to search and rescue is through locating targets. Smaller drones can be used to do a scan of an area in order to locate anything that easily stands out such as bright coloured clothing etc. At this point, having accurate information of the search location can also be used to coordinate the search and rescue mission. Using the visual image of terrain can help to assess the specific equipment required for the search, increasing the efficiency. Larger drones such as the M200 Series and be used to be used with a dual payload of the Zenmuse XT and Z30. This allows the thermal image camera to be used for the initial search to locate any heat signals that stand out that could be the missing person. The zoom camera can then be used to investigate any heat signals and either direct the ground team for further investigation or rescue the target. Another benefit of using the zoom camera is the ability to triage a target once found. The visual triage can be used to check for consciousness or any injuries, leading to the appropriate team being sent for rescue, including urgent response if the target isn’t responsive. Drone use with search and rescue teams across the UK as well as other countries has increased dramatically over the last few years. The available drones and payloads are ideal for the application in search and rescue operations, especially the Matrice 200 Series and the compatible thermal and zoom camera payloads. These tools support existing search and rescue methods, helping to improve the speed of operation in a much more affordable package when compared to traditional search and rescue methods.


Police forces in the UK are incorporating drones in their everyday operation through the use of dedicated drone divisions and trained members of constabularies gaining PfCOs. Drones are being used across a variety area with the police, from evidence gathering to locating criminals and victims of crimes. Recommended Kit - M200 Series or Inspire 1 drone with a thermal camera. Due to the different areas in which drones can be beneficial to police forces, the kit required needs to be flexible to meet the needs of all the different areas. Drones have been used to capture evidence by assessing a crime scene, capturing real-time information or videos and images for later assessment. Drones have been used on a wide range of scenes such as fires, car accidents and many more. Crossing over with search and rescue, police can also use drones for locating targets, both criminals and people involved in incidents. heliguy™ customers, Lincolnshire Police recently had their drone team reach the headlines when they successfully located an unresponsive and hypothermic man involved in a road traffic accident on the A16. The man was found in a ditch 500ft from his crashed car. He walked away from the vehicle following the accident and the police were unable to locate him. The man was found using a Zenmuse XT camera which picked up his thermal reading. The police were able to use this information and send ground officers to the man and contact an ambulance. It is thought this locating the man could have saved his life. Without the drone, locating the man would have been difficult as the fields were in complete darkness. The drone assistance was requested by Sergeant Mike Templeman who felt all alternative options had been exhausted. The drone was piloted by Special Constabulary Sergeant Kevin Taylor. We spoke to Sergeant Edward Delderfield from Lincolnshire Police and asked him what he considered the benefits of using drones within the police. He answered the following: “Drones in the police have the ability to provide two key benefits; 1)      Additional capability The capability comes from having a flexible value for money aerial platform that can be deployed rapidly. Where incidents are time critical, we can be on scene and search from the air usually vastly faster than the NPAS helicopter. In addition, the crime scene footage that the current optics on DJI drones offer, are far superior in terms of quality and stability are superior to the police helicopter. In Lincolnshire, we are some 100km from our nearest heli base and the weather and other commitments can often mean that they are unable to attend our incidents or are delayed. The availability of drones fills that gap, especially in search and rescue situations. The ability to deploy thermal imaging has a particular benefit to policing operations. In Lincolnshire, we have found numerous cannabis factories where close to 1000 plants have been recovered. The only other option to gather that intelligence would be the helicopter at a cost of £3000 per hour. This would become prohibitive and the intelligence would not have been collected. The quality of the thermal footage again is on a par for with what the helicopter can provide. The health and safety benefits have been realised when the drone has been used to search hazardous, unlit building sites and compounds for offenders without the need to endanger officers on foot. The ability to downlink the drone footage through to senior officers in a central control room has provided them with enhanced situational awareness through crowd dynamics and identification. This has supported better decision making during football matches and planned protests as well as the Lincoln Christmas Market. 2)      Efficiency savings As well as preventing the need for the force to pay for the expensive helicopter to complete some tasking, when drones are deployed to search areas for suspects or missing people at night especially it takes far fewer officers, far shorter time to cover the same area. Those officers can then be deployed more effectively and efficiently elsewhere. In conclusion, while current technology UAVs are not a direct replacement for the helicopter the platform provides a vast scope for both efficiency savings and increased capability which has beyond doubt proved its worth.” In addition to the above, police in the UK have used drones to locate and capture individuals involved in the illegal practice of hare coursing. Hare coursing was banned in Hunting Act 2004. Police use a combination of equipment to locate groups involved. Police DJI Inspire


Using drones as part of a team to assist firefighting efforts is also expanding across the UK and globally. Like with using drones in the police, there’s a crossover with aspects including search and rescue, however, drones can help assist with a fire department in a unique way. Recommended Kit - A Matrices Series drone with a Zenmuse XT thermal camera. Using a drone allows firefighters to assess the site during a fire quickly and efficiently, without putting the team into unknown danger. Signs of hazardous materials and unsafe terrain can be noted. These can then be used to plan the efforts to combat the fire. Once a site has been surveyed, a Zenmuse XT can be used to locate the source of the fire and target efforts to the location. This is done by identifying thermal hotspots and is much more effective than previous methods. Doing this with the use of sight alone can easily be confused by smoke. Additionally, buildings can be assessed using the thermal images to check the safety of certain areas before entering. For example, the temperature of the roof can be checked to see whether the fire has spread making it unsafe for entry. Following an incident such as a fire or road traffic accident, a drone can be used to collect images of the area. These can be used for further investigation and for safety checks. Aerial images provide a valuable perspective, helping identify details that could previously be missed. DJI Inspire 1 with Zenmuse XT

Disaster Response

Drones are more commonly being used at disaster sites such as hurricanes of earthquakes. They can be a useful tool in all areas of disaster relief. From locating survivors through to helping to rebuild following the disaster. Recommended Kit - Dependent on the requirements, smaller drones such as the Mavic Series can be used to quickly assess and photograph an area. The M200 Series with a thermal camera would be beneficial for searching for survivors and X4S for area mapping. Initially following a disaster, drones can be used to give a quick assessment of an area to show the true extent of damage and identify target areas for survivors. An aircraft such as an M210 drone with a dual thermal and standard camera can locate areas for target and use the thermal signal to identify survivors. A key area where drones can benefit a disaster response team is to assess the damage to an area, capturing data with programs such as DroneDeploy and Ground Station Pro to produce 3D maps and models. Following the assessment of areas, drones can be used to target and evaluate clean-up efforts and rebuilding areas badly affected by the disaster. The Zenmuse X4S camera is ideal for mapping due to the leaf shutter capable of 1/2000 shutter speeds, helping reduce the rolling shutter effect. DJI Inspire 1


The benefits drones can have as a support to public safety are astounding. From helping to save lives and property to stopping illegal activity to helping rebuild after a disaster, drones clearly have many uses. The use of drones can be much more cost-effective and efficient than traditional methods. They can help improve the safety of not just those involved in the incident but emergency services who’re trying to help. heliguy™ offers a range of drone services in this area. These include a wide range of DJI drones and payloads as well as emergency services drone training that’s tailor-made to individual requirements.
To discuss the use of drones in public safety or any DJI or Freefly product, please give one of our team a call on 0191 296 1024 or email us at
Keep checking back to Heliguy’s Insider Blog for more announcements, insights into drones and, of course, the latest news from the drone industry.

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