Nottinghamshire's 'eye in the sky' drones gets an upgrade

Nottinghamshire Police’s ‘eye in the sky’ drones have been given an upgrade that could save lives and catch criminals more quickly

By Dale Spridgeon
Thursday, 12th August 2021, 10:24 am

The new drone capability means footage can be live streamed instantly to key decision-makers, meaning senior officers will be able to direct resources to dynamic incidents, such as large gatherings or tracking dangerous suspects.

Nottinghamshire Police’s drones team, a resource shared with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, launched in January 2020 and has since established itself as one on the most effective in the country – helping to locate vulnerable missing people and detain wanted suspects.

Until now, officers on the ground have had to rely on the verbal commentary of the drone pilot to respond to events in the air.

PC Pilot Vince Saunders

The addition of the new live-streaming capability will allow aerial footage to be beamed directly to the force commanders and any other officers who wish to view it.

The new technology will be especially useful on crowd control, intelligence operations and real-time deployments to track dangerous suspects.

Chief PC Pilot Vince Saunders said: “So far the drone team has been huge success. Our pilots have literally helped to save several lives and we have also had a vital role in detaining several dangerous suspects. What’s more we have also saved the force tens of thousands of pounds that would otherwise have been spent on helicopter deployments.

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The drone

“Until now, however, we have been operating within a technological limitation which has limited what we’ve been able to do. And prevented us from using this new technology to its fullest potential.

“We have wanted for some time to add this resource to the drone team and were delighted with the results of a recent trial.

“It has really added another string to our bow. I know also that colleagues at the fire service will also be able to benefit from this new technology.”

The drones team, made up of 17 volunteer pilots and four drones, is on hand 24/7 to carry out pre-planned and emergency response operations.

So far the team has helped to find 16 vulnerable missing people, secured more than 52 arrests and gathered a range of high quality video evidence.

Its latest and most expensive drones, a £20,000 DJI Matrice 300, also has the ability to pinpoint and follow targets on a map and a laser range finder that can give accurate geo-locational data from a distance of up to 1,200 metres away.

It also brings improvements in battery life, durability, speed and range and has a thermally equipped camera capable of a 200 x zoom – giving highly detailed images and identifying heat sources from almost a mile away.

UK forces have been using a variety of platforms to give aerial views of people and events since the 1920s – from airships and fixed-wing aeroplanes to helicopters and drones.

Andy Turner, station manager at Mansfield Fire Station, said: “The recent addition to the drone’s capability has served to enhance how information can be gathered at an incident.

"The drone is now regularly being mobilised to incidents that involve searching for persons, such as rescues from water and height. Since the introduction of the live-streaming capability the service has utilised the footage to identify the location, and determine the extent, of fires in large buildings and woodland.”

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