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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Police extend use of drones

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Most police services now use drones and for an ever growing list of reasons: tracking suspects, gathering evidence, counter-terrorism

Rapid expansion of use

Typically, when I mention drones on this site; I’m talking about criminals using drones to deliver drugs to prisons.

But, all technologies are ethically neutral and get used by both law enforcement and law-breaking communities.

Although the first dedicated police drone unit in the UK was only launched in July 2017 in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, many forces have been following suit.

I haven’t been able to lay my hands on any official figures, but police services in Gwent, Kent, London, Manchester, Merseyside, Norfolk and Sussex all use them for a variety of operations.

Common uses include:

  • Crime scene searches
  • Monitoring coastline and woodlands to help combat wildlife crime
  • Monitoring drug raids
  • Searching for missing people
They can be particularly useful in providing real time information in major road traffic incidents and industrial accidents. In addition to high definition optical and digital cameras, drones can also be equipped with thermal imaging equipment which makes them an ideal, non-expensive way to track down cannabis factories.
 
Drones can be used in high risk situations and hard to access locations. More controversial uses could be the use of drones as surveillance devices for protests and political demonstrations.
 
The increasingly popular police use of drones brings a whole new meaning to the term “Flying Squad”.
 
The video below shows how Norfolk Police used a thermal imaging drone to arrest an individual who had breached his prison release licence.

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