Nottinghamshire Police in the UK say 2022 was the busiest year to date for its drone operators, with more deployments, arrests, and interventions than ever before.
Founded in January 2020, this drone team has used crime-fighting aircraft more than 1,100 times to support police operations, and has clocked some 550 hours of flight time in the process. Drone operators have been able to track down criminal suspects on 43 occasions with the help of high-resolution cameras and thermal imaging sensors.
Some notable arrests include two suspected vandals hiding in a back garden, a wanted man hiding in a caravan, a trio of suspected thieves hiding in the woods, and a suspected drunk driver hiding in a bush in the dead of night.
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Based at Nottinghamshire Police HQ, the drone team offers 24/7 support for emergency deployments and is also on hand to assist pre-planned operations such as drug warrants and other arrest attempts. It also assists Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service to fight and track fires.
In addition, finding missing people is also a vital part of the team’s work, as a single drone operator is able to effectively search large areas in a matter of minutes. Twelve missing people were found using drones in 2022. Multiple eyes in the sky also helped Nottinghamshire Police to recover 10 stolen vehicles last year.
The drone team currently has access to 14 highly trained pilots who accommodate their flying duties around their other policing duties. They have access to a fleet of six drones, which was bolstered in April 2022 by the arrival of two smaller drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras.
As Sergeant Vince Saunders, chief drone pilot at Nottinghamshire Police, points out:
Drone technology is slowly but surely changing the world around us. From farming to filmmaking, new applications for these small and inexpensive aircraft are being developed all the time – and the same is true in policing. We’ve had access to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for a long time, but these are very expensive resources and are shared by police forces across the region. Our drones give us a cheap and readily available option to get a three-dimensional view of almost any situation and the results speak for themselves. Suspects who try to run have nowhere to hide and the lives of missing people can and have been saved by a drone deployment. The really exciting thing is that this is a technology that is developing all the time – giving us additional options for how to use it.
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