The South Yorkshire Police has secured approval from senior officers for the development of drone capability.
The small unmanned aircraft project, led by the Airport Policing Group at Doncaster, began with the acquisition of two drones in 2018 to provide flexible coverage of Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s airfield in the event of an incident.
The senior officers have now approved funding to expand the force’s fleet of drones from two to eight operational aircraft, which will be deployed routinely for various operations.
PC Gordon Sitch said: “Whilst experimenting with our first two drones and after discussions with other forces, it became clear that we could be using this technology beyond the airfield’s fences.
“We have made the case for investing in further aircraft, so that they can be used more routinely across the force.”
Supporting the project, Operational Support Unit Inspector Martin Rodgers said: “Whilst we will still be working closely with our colleagues at NPAS (National Police Air Service) for certain operations, adding this resource will mean we can respond more quickly and spontaneously to incidents.”
In addition to increasing the number of drones, 20 officers from across the force will undergo extensive pilot training in line with the regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority.
After completing the training, the force will have 24/7 drone coverage and these can be deployed to help officers with a variety of operations, such as search operations, including missing person searches; major incidents; crowd monitoring at sporting events, parades, concerts and festivals; and proactive operations, including warrants.
Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley said that increasing the force’s drone capability is an exciting step.
He said: “This technology brings huge opportunity to improve our service to our communities. By developing our fleet, we will have another flexible and highly adaptable resource to help us in a range of spontaneous and pre-planned operations, giving us that extra dimension of a controlled oversight to inform what is happening and what best the Police can do.
“This really will help us in keeping our communities safe.”
Pilot training will commence in March 2019.