Police drones are being used more than ever by Nottinghamshire Police to catch criminals, gather evidence and search for missing people.
That’s the news from the force’s drones team as a new TV documentary highlights the power and potential of these miniature eyes in the sky.
Sky Coppers, broadcast on Channel 4 tonight (Tuesday), is the first programme of its type to focus exclusively on the role of drone technology – an area of policing that has expanded considerably in recent years.
Nottinghamshire Police has six high-tech drones of various sizes and capabilities at its disposal. In the year to April 2023, they completed an all-time high of nearly 1,400 deployments.
More than 2,000 additional requests for support were also logged with the team, which began its work in January 2021.
Fifteen pilots, who fit drone shifts around their other responsibilities as police officers, carry out a mixture of pre-planned and responsive deployments. These include:
Supporting with arrests
Crime scene investigation
Searching for missing people
And the monitoring of fires
More than a third of all spontaneous deployments were in response to missing people reports, including a very vulnerable young woman who could have died if her white trainers had not been spotted protruding from dense woodland in the Mansfield area.
Sergeant Vince Saunders, chief drone pilot at Nottinghamshire Police, said: “This is a really exciting area of policing and one that will continue to grow and develop in the years ahead.
“Our drone fleet now gives officers 24/7 access to aerial support, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago when we’d have to spend very large sums of money to call in a police helicopter or fixed wing aircraft.
“When it comes to missing people searches, for example, one officer with an eye in the sky can now do the job of dozens of others who may otherwise be searching an area manually in the cold and dark.
“Using our thermal imaging capabilities we are able to cover large areas of land very quickly and find people far more quickly than in the past. On at least one recent occasion that capability helped to save somebody’s life.
“Put simply drones are increasingly allowing us to find people who otherwise may not be found, to arrest people who would otherwise have got away, and to secure evidence we may not otherwise have found. It is a really exciting element of British policing, and I am delighted to be a part of it.”