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Drones in the skies

Police forces in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset have revealed they are testing the use of drones for use in a number of policing matters, including missing people searches and photography of crime scenes.

Since the 2nd of November 2015 police in Devon and Cornwall will be able to call upon the services of two DJI Inspire 1 drones, which are equipped with high definition cameras that can capture both video and still images. One is based in Exeter and the other in Plymouth.

Both drones have an HD downlink which means officers on the ground can see live footage captured by the drone in the air. Each drone can fly for up to 18 minutes at a time before returning to the operator to change batteries – although each drone has several batteries, so can be kept operational for a prolonged period of time if required.

Police in Dorset are also undertaking final preparations for drone use, and will be trialling in their area from 26th November.

Cumbria Police has been testing two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and has already used them to search for missing people.

“Using a drone to capture footage on difficult terrain and hard to reach areas such as cliffs, woodland or the moors to find a missing person, combat wildlife crime or even a firearm incident, will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly, safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”

Civil Aviation (CAA) regulations state that drone operators must pass a national CAA accredited qualification. The Devon and Cornwall force currently has three trained operators in place for the trial, including Inspector Hamilton, and there are plans to train further officers should the trial prove to be a success.

Kent Police is expected to start using a drone to help search for missing people and take pictures of crime scenes. The force said it was testing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and expected it to be "operationally functional" in 2016. Kent Police Federation chairman Ian Pointon said they were a "cost-effective way" of searching for people.

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