REVOLUTIONISING Police Force Drone Operations
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Contents AreaHow Are Police Using Drones? Police Drones For Search and Rescue Police Drones For Crash-scene Investigation Police Drones For Evidence Gathering Police Drones For Disaster Response Police Drones For Surveillance And Crowd Control Police Drones Help Support Fire Crews Police Drones For HazMat Response How Do Police Deal With Illegal Drone Use? What Drones Do The Police Use? Top Tips For Starting A Police Drone Programme How Does HELIGUY.com™ Support The Police? Police Drones - FAQs
how are police using drones?
Drones are transforming the way that police operate.
Fighting Crime And Keeping Communities Safe
Drones have revolutionised policing. Unmanned aircraft have become a force multiplier for law enforcement teams, providing unprecedented views of a scene or incident - helping to fight crime, plan an effective response, and keep officers safe.
As the use of the technology has exploded in recent years, the relatively low cost of drones has enabled agencies of all sizes to utilise this innovative method of policing.
A study by the Center for the Study of the Drone At Bard College revealed that the drone adoption rate in public safety in the US is rising, and 70% of these agencies work in law enforcement.
Police are deploying drones and sophisticated payloads - including zoom and thermal cameras - for a range of missions, including search and rescue, crime-scene investigation, crowd control, evidence-gathering, and accident reconstruction.
The biggest advantage of drones in law enforcement is the ability to go where officers cannot. From hazmat calls, surveying damage from natural disasters, and responding to bomb threats, the technology is fundamentally changing how police departments respond to a wide range of incidents and help keep the public safe.
Total number of public safety agencies in the US with drones by year. From the Public Safety Drones survey by The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.
Police Drone Cheaper and Quicker Than Deploying Helicopter
"Each Drone Deployment Cost One-third Less."
For police forces, deploying a drone is a quicker and more cost-effective solution than sending out a police helicopter.
Drones also have the advantage that they are quieter, making them better placed during covert operations, while their ability to fly lower to the ground is useful in times of cloud cover.
For example, Kent Police says that by using a drone instead of a helicopter in appropriate circumstances, they will save a significant amount of money. The Force adds that a drone allows the police helicopter to be used for more serious incidents, whilst still achieving aerial assistance to officers on the ground. Kent Police says that using the drone helps speed-up tasks and save time, for example when searching for a missing person.
Meanwhile, Dorset Police believes the success of its own drone unit may have resulted in savings estimated at £170,000, according to a report in the Bournemouth Echo. The article added that each drone deployment cost at least one-third less than using the National Police Air Service helicopter. For balance, the article does say that the Force is paying fixed fees for the shared helicopter and additional fees each time it is used.
Drones may not replace helicopters in all circumstances, but they are certainly a vital tool for police forces, especially in times of budget cuts.
Lincolnshire Police has a thriving drone department. Sergeant Ed Delderfield said: "Drones provide a more flexible and cost-effective air asset compared with the NPAS helicopter alternative. As technology and legislation advances, I can see unmanned aircraft taking over. However, the manned helicopter still provides a unique capability and we are a long way off being able to operate without them."
police drones for search and rescue
More than 400 lives rescued from danger thanks to drones around the world.
A Track Record Of Rescue
Police are using DJI Drones and a range of different sensors to assist with search and rescue operations, helping to save lives right around the world.
Law enforcement agencies can take advantage of a wide range of benefits over traditional methods:
- Explore hard to reach areas with ease - and at up to 10x the speed of traditional methods.
- An array of sensors, such as thermal, are available to give police forces the best chance of a successful rescue.
- Deploy much faster than using traditional methods - the DJI M300 RTK can be deployed in 90 seconds!
- Significant cost-savings overusing helicopters or large-scale search parties.
- Fly lower to the ground for close-range inspection.
These advantages will not only save the resources of often already-stretched police forces, but it will help save more missing people in the future.
See how Norfolk Police saved a man's life after he became lost in marshland:
police drones for crash-scene investigation
Cut the time it takes to collect evidence.
"More Detailed Than Traditional Methods"
Drones have had a radical impact on the work of crash-site reconstruction.
By adding airborne cameras to their toolkits, public safety crews have been able to cut the time it takes to map a site and gather evidence.
What’s more, the data they can gather is better than what they were able to collect with previous methods that took hours.
The benefits of utilising a drone after an RTC include:
- Cut down the time it takes to assess a crash scene, which helps reduce traffic congestion and keep emergency service personnel safe.
- The drone reduces the amount of time they need to physically spend on the road.
- Drone pilots can keep a safe distance from passing cars while piloting over an accident.
police drones for gathering evidence
Produce accurate 3D models for analysis.
Capture The Evidence Efficiently
Drones are an effective solution for gathering evidence.
Similar to the benefits of crash-scene investigation, drones are able to produce accurate and detailed 3D reconstructions of a crime scene.
Other benefits include:
- Collect evidence which could be hard or dangerous to collect from the ground.
- Thanks to accessories, such as the spotlight on the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise series, drones provide lighting at night or during low-light environments. The use of thermal and/or zoom cameras can also be an asset during evidence collection.
- Drones can survey a site and collect mapping data much quicker than on-the-ground methods. In fact, drones allow officers to collect immediate and real-time data.
A drone with a thermal camera helped Lincolnshire Police land its first successful UAV prosecution. The technology uncovered a major cannabis farm, and the footage was passed on to the investigating team to obtain a search warrant, and it was used in evidence at court.
police drones for disaster response
Access dangerous areas - quickly and safely.
Every Second Counts
When disaster strikes, a quick response is crucial. Drones are the perfect solution, as they can be deployed rapidly and cheaply - reaching inaccessible and dangerous areas and providing vital information about the crisis.
In a disaster situation, drones can be used to:
- Provide fast and effective situational awareness with mapping and images to help coordinate relief efforts, gain an overview of the situation, and identify access routes.
- Use thermal and zoom cameras to help fire crews identify fire hot spots.
- Assess damage to utilities, infrastructure, and property.
- Search for survivors.
- Create before and after maps of the impacted area. This information can be shared with local authorities/agencies, affected residents, and insurance companies.
Derbyshire Police deployed drones after part of the dam wall collapsed at Whaley Bridge, utilising zoom capabilities to assess the damage and help a Chinook place bags of aggregate.
In California, police used drones to map the scene following a major wildfire at Paradise. This not only provided situational awareness, but helped residents see if their homes had been destroyed, without having to go into a disaster zone.
police drones for SURVEILLANCE and crowd control
A unique vantage point is vital for deployment tactics.
Use A Tether For Increased Flight Time
Surveillance by drone is an important and valuable part of policing - but forces will not deploy unmanned aircraft to simply spy on you for no good reason.
Drones can be deployed by police for a range of observation missions, such as scouting key areas or suspects, obtaining vital situational awareness to help with deployment tactics, and monitoring crowd behaviour and movement.
The benefits of using drones for these types of missions are numerous, including:
- Drones offer a unique vantage point and provide a large field of view without compromising officer safety. They are also deployed quicker and cheaper than helicopter.
- Quiet and unobtrusive, drones can be deployed without being spotted, when stealth is the key.
- Drones enable law enforcement teams to investigate suspects - especially those who could be armed - while maintaining a safe distance. This real-time intelligence is key for planning a safe and effective strategy.
- Thanks to zoom cameras and thermal sensors, police can gather a clear picture of an on-going scene or incident, allowing them to deploy resources accordingly and identify any trouble-makers.
- CCTV cameras can be vandalised or covered. A drone's height makes this difficult, if not impossible.
- Ahead of a major event, drones can be used to recce an area.
- A drone tether is an incredibly useful addition to a police drone programme, and ideal for surveillance operations. The tether generates power so the drone can stay airborne for hours - perfect for when endurance is paramount.
Police drones to support fire crews
Detect hot spots and see through smoke.
Aerial Insights Improve Safety
Police can use drones to support fire crews and help them tackle a blaze.
Drones can carry thermal sensors and zoom cameras which can provide key information for firefighters.
The advantages of using drones during a fire include:
- Deploy quickly and easily to gain an overhead view of the incident, providing crews with rapid and accurate situational awareness, in real-time.
- Thermal cameras can be used to see through smoke and detect hot spots, helping to shape firefighting tactics and improve crew safety.
- Identify access routes and directions to guide crews towards the incident.
police drones for hazmat response
Why go into a dangerous situation when drones can do it for you?
Safe And Effective Data Collection
HazMat response can be a dangerous operation - dealing with highly toxic and extremely volatile materials which can be lethal. It's the kind of material you want to avoid at all costs - and a drone can help with this.
The emergence of drones has enabled HazMat teams to collect the information they need in a safe and effective way. Here's why:
- A drone can provide a useful view from above. relaying regular and real-time information, enabling crews to make informed decisions from a safe distance.
- Drones improve crew safety by limiting the number of entries needed to the site. Why send your team in when a drone can do it for you?
- Streaming drone footage back to the control room or operating base improves communication, allowing the team to analyse the same video in real-time, helping to cut down on misinformation or misunderstandings.
- Typically, a technician or crew member, in full gear, will go and identify the situation, before sharing the information so the team can change its gear/tactics. In the process, thousands of pounds of equipment can be destroyed, all while precious time ticks by. A drone can carry out this task with speed and precision.
- Working in a HazMat suit for a prolonged period in hot conditions can be uncomfortable and dangerous. A drone minimises this problem.
- A drone can carry key items, such as specialist detectors, to help deal with the situation.
how do police deal with rogue drones?
New powers to tackle misuse of unmanned aircraft.
Drone Detection Technology Has A Part To Play
Drones are transforming the world of work and public safety - but there are times when unmanned aircraft fall into the wrong hands and can be used in potentially dangerous ways.
As a result, police are able to identify illegal and unregistered drones that may be hazardous to the surrounding environment to keep their communities safe.
Police in the UK, for example, are to receive new powers to tackle the misuse of drones, including landing, inspecting and seizing drones if an offence has been committed and a warrant is secured.
The legislation is contained in the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, which had its second reading in Parliament in January 2020.
Drone users could also face an on-the-spot fine for certain offences, such as failing to provide evidence that they have the correct permissions and exemptions if found to be flying their device too high or too close to buildings, or failing to provide evidence of competency or registration.
The bill will also give the police new stop and search powers around airports, prisons and other restricted areas. It will amend the Police Act 1997 to allow the police and senior prison authorities to authorise the use of counter-drone measures to combat illegal drone use.
In 2019, the drone detection technology DJI AeroScope - supplied by HELIGUY.com™ - was used to trace and seize drones being flown illegally during the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone.
which drones do police use?
Different drones provide different operational capabilities.
Harness The Power Of The DJI Eco-system
DJI drones have become the go-to tool for many police forces, providing the necessary features to respond appropriately to emergency situations.
According to the third edition of the Public Safety Drones report, compiled by the Center for the Study of the Drone At Bard College, DJI drones were the most popular among public safety teams (see graph, right).
And there’s a good reason for this. DJI technology offers a reliable, versatile and an out-of-the-box solution for public safety agencies, all at an affordable price – especially compared to other enterprise drones on the market.
Among the most suitable options available for police forces, the DJI M300 RTK is a ground-breaking aircraft, with an incredible endurance of 55 minutes, and an enhanced weather-resistance rating of IP45. The drone is packed with features which make it ideal for law enforcement agencies, including the H20T camera - engineered exclusively for the M300 RTK and featuring thermal, zoom, wide, and laser rangefinder capabilities
The M300 RTK is the latest member of the Matrice family, following up on the renowned M200 Series V2. The drones in the V2 Series have established themselves as a firm favourite for law enforcement, especially the M210, thanks to their ability to carry dual payloads, including the Z30 zoom camera and XT2 thermal sensor, plus third-party cameras.
Another popular choice for police forces is the Mavic 2 Enterprise Series. These lightweight, foldable, easily transportable and quickly deployable drones come with three accessories – including a loudspeaker and a bright spotlight. The Mavic 2 Enterprise has a dynamic zoom camera (2x optical 3x digital zoom), while the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual has a side-by-side thermal sensor and 4K camera.
Number of agencies in the US Emergency Services who use DJI drones, compared to other manufacturers. The results relate to agencies involved in the Public Safety Drones survey by The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.
Best DJI Drones For Police
DJI M300 RTK
- Up to 55 minute flight time.
- An IP45 weather-resistance rating.
- Carry up to three payloads at once.
- H20T camera, built for the M300 RTK, is a multi-sensor solution, with thermal, zoom, wide, and laser rangefinder capabilities.
- Enhanced safety features and flight redundancy.
DJI M210 V2
- Rugged and robust with an IP43 weather-resistance rating.
- Carry dual payloads to increase mission efficiency.
- Compatible with a range of cameras, including third-party options.
- 34 minute maximum flight time.
- The M200 Series also has an RTK version available.
Mavic 2 Enterprise Series
- Three key accessories - spotlight, beacon, and a loudspeaker.
- Mavic 2 Enterprise has a 12MP camera with dynamic zoom capabilities.
- Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual has thermal and standard RGB sensors.
- Lightweight, foldable, easily transportable, and quick to deploy.
- Password-protection to access the drone and the data.
Flying DJI Drones In The Rain - A Guide To IP Ratings And Looking After Your Aircraft
A Robust Solution When Duty Calls
You can't always predict when an incident will happen, and sometimes police forces will need to deploy drones in the wind and the rain.
DJI drones, such as the M300 RTK and M200 Series V2, offer a robust solution to enable officers to fly in difficult conditions.
The DJI M300 RTK has an IP45 rating. While this is not a complete waterproofing, it does mean that the drone is protected against low pressure jets of water (or splashing water) from any angle. In fact, DJI has stated that the M300 RTK can withstand 100mm of rain during a 24-hour period.
The DJI M300 RTK also has a wind resistance of 15m/s and can operate in temperatures from -20°C to 50°C, making it a safe and effective platform in a variety of challenging environments. .
The DJI M200 Series V2 has an IP43 rating (protected against sprays of water up to 60° from the vertical) and DJI says that it can operate in light rain (less than 10mm a day).
The DJI M200 Series V2 has a maximum wind-speed resistance of 12m/s, and can operate in temperatures from -20°C to 50°C.
After flying your drone in inclement weather, it is important that you take the time to wipe it down and dry it off and store it correctly.
starting a police drone programme
Public perception is key.
Transparency Is A Priority
Improved situational awareness, faster deployment, and enhanced safety - there's no doubt that drones have become a useful addition to police forces. Despite this, the police's use of drones is still met with a wave of scepticism and concern from certain sections of society - with some people conjuring up pictures of an Orwellian state.
With this in mind, some police forces can be hesitant to start a drone programme. But it can be done. After all, police forces around the world are utilising drones.
One of the most important pieces of advice is to be open and transparent, especially with the public, to try to allay any concerns, particularly around thorny subjects like surveillance. Sometimes, decision-makers within your own department can be hesitant to start off with, but are then convinced once they see the power of the technology.
For instance, New York Fire Battalion Chief Anthony Pascocello admits there was resistance to adding drones to the department, but using an unmanned aircraft for the first time was an 'earth-shattering moment'. He adds: "It was the first time that the incident commander had real-time information from the roof and he could actually see what the sector was reporting back to him. Once he saw what the drone could do, he was sold on it.”
To help you get started, here are some top tips to enable you to move towards starting or scaling a public safety drone operation.
10 Tips For Starting A Drone Programme
- Start small and focus on one use case. Perfect it and build from there.
- Provide success stories from other departments or localities, because there are plenty out there.
- Know what you are getting into, as a drone programme requires governance, policies/procedures, defining missions, selection of UAS and payloads, training/proficiency, maintenance and thorough documentation.
- Engage your jurisdiction’s administration and elected officials.
Plan to use the UAS for multiple public safety missions and with other public safety agencies.
Where possible, create a regional team of public safety from multiple jurisdictions or plan a programme alongside other public safety agencies.
Develop a clear policy as to when UAS will be used for surveillance and evidence, and provide safeguards to ensure personal privacy.
Explain recording policy and length of maintaining those video recordings.
Explain the extent to maintain training and safety protocols.
Ensure your pilots are trained, licensed and certified.
"Don't Reinvent The Wheel" - Romeo Durscher, DJI's Senior Director of Public Safety Integration, Shares His Tips
How Police Forces Are Promoting Their Use Of Drones
A Closer Look At Some Of The Forces
When it comes to police drone programmes, transparency is key, and this is evident when looking at the website of numerous UK police forces which are utilising the technology.
A number of forces have gone to great lengths to highlight their use of UAVs, including their intentions, how much their drones cost, and who pilots the aircraft.
Here are some examples from some of the websites.
West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police says that it is using drones as a tactic to target criminals and help keep the public safe. The Force says that its drones - which cost between £2,000 and £10,000 - will be used to help give officers a mobile eye in the sky, helping to scan large areas quickly, and they will be deployed in crime hot spots, following serious incidents, and at pre-planned operations.
The Force also answers the question of whether or not the drones are being used to spy on the general public. The Force's answer is: "Absolutely not. Drones are only being used as an extra resource to target criminals operating in public places. It’s a mobile equivalent to CCTV. Strict legislation governs the use of drones – including their use by the police. All of the data is encrypted for security."
Lancashire Police carries similar information on its website, answering questions such as which cameras their drones carry and how their pilots have been trained. The Force says the police has to comply with existing legislation and regulation in respect of drone use.
Lancashire Police also details its use of drones, saying UAVs are deployed to enable an effective use of resources, improve the safety of the public and the police, provide good quality evidence to assist apprehension and prosecution of offenders, and enhance joint working with other emergency services and external partner agencies.
North Wales Police
A detailed breakdown on drone use can be found on North Wales Police's website. The Force promotes its use of drones by highlighting the various use cases, their image capabilities, and the ambition to add further drones to its ranks.
.The page makes specific reference to the fact that the drones won't be used for general public surveillance, and adds that the police drone will only record data (stills or video) if there is a policing purpose to it.
how does HELIGUY.com™ help the police?
Comprehensive supply and support for law enforcement teams.
Build Your Drone Programme With Us By Your Side
As one of the world's leading drone suppliers, HELIGUY.com™ has established a track record of delivering dedicated operational support to police forces.
We are entrusted by more than 30 of the UK's emergency services, helping to bolster their UAV programmes and supporting them every step of the way.
As a true one-stop-shop, HELIGUY.com™ offers comprehensive cover to all aspects of a police drone division, including access to free expert consultancy and advice; technical support from our in-house DJI-approved team of technicians; dedicated police drone training; staging demonstration events and roadshows; and attending handover days, enabling officers to unlock the true potential of their aircraft.
HELIGUY.com™ is a trusted DJI Partner and has a vast inventory of drones and sensors to help support the work of police forces across the world. With more than a decade of experience, HELIGUY.com™ has established a portfolio of contacts to provide access to a wealth of industry-leading solutions, such as Elistair's Drone Tethers and Excelerate Technology's UAV Streamer.
Allowing forces to dynamically and flexibly scale their fleets, HELIGUY.com™ offers a range of supply options, including 0% finance purchasing and a large pool of rental stock.
With warehouse facilities in Dallas, Texas, USA, and the United Kingdom, HELIGUY.com™ is able to supply drone pilots and support police drone programmes around the world.
Specialist Drone Training For The Police
Expand Your Skill Set For Mission Confidence
HELIGUY.com™'s expert training team runs industry-leading drone training for commercial drone pilots, including the GVC course to enable pilots to access Standard Permissions.
HELIGUY.com™ also runs dedicated ES-DOT training courses for the emergency services.
These tailored sessions give pilots the confidence to succeed while on operations. Click here to find out more about our ES-DOT courses.
Our ES-DOT training courses have enabled officers to deploy quickly and effectively. Derbyshire Constabulary's first female drone pilot was trained by HELIGUY.com™ - read the full story here - while two officers deployed less than 48 hours after completing HELIGUY.com™’s ES-DOT Course – filling a vital gap in operational capability. Read the full story by clicking here.
HELIGUY.com™ also holds CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training courses for the emergency services. CPD is widely regarded as a mandatory activity in the continuation of any professional enterprise, helping to maintain an optimal level of safety and service provision.
The HELIGUY.com™ CPD-accredited training package is essential for drone pilots in the emergency services, ensuring they are flying to a high standard and in strict accordance with the rules and regulations.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Common Questions About The Police's Use Of Drones
The police use drones for a range of purposes, including assisting with searches for missing people, catching criminals, reconstructing crash scenes, collecting evidence, monitoring crowds, and accessing situational awareness to improve incident response and improve officer safety.
Yes they do. The emergency services need to work within the existing legislation and specific regulations in respect of drone use. Their drone pilots also need to be properly trained and certified.
No. Police use drones to support lawful policing purposes. The drone isn't always recording and any data recorded will only be retained if there is a specific requirement.