In my view, drones can revolutionise policing in the same way that the introduction of police radios did in the 1960s.
The county’s police force is one the few across England and Wales that already uses drones, sharing four drones with neighbouring Devon & Cornwall in an arrangement that has been fully licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
They are used to help officers in their investigations by taking aerial photographs, recording videos and maps. The two forces have also used them to take photographs at crime scenes and road accidents.
This week one of the drones has been used to assist in the search for missing junior doctor Rose Polge who was last seen in a cove at Torbay.
If I am re-elected, I want to see more UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles – used by the police.
Policing needs to be at the forefront of technology and quick to embrace innovation. Look at the portable two way radios transformed policing in the 1960s – I believe drones have the capability to revolutionise the way we police in this country in a similar way, whilst saving a substantial amount of public money.
Whether it is helping search for a missing person, recording evidence for later use in a criminal investigation or giving police officers a unique bird’s eye view of a particular situation, the potential UAVs have for helping forces is huge.”
The Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter visited Dorset this week to look at a demonstration of the drones in use. The Strategic Alliance of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall Police are now working with Mr Porter’s office to achieve Third Party Certification regarding the use of drones.
This would help demonstrate the Alliance comply with the surveillance camera code of practice. I believe this openness and transparency around UAVs will reassure the public about their use. I say that because I know there will be some people who feel uneasy about police using this equipment but in my view, the law abiding public have nothing to fear. Providing strong governance is in place, there is no reason why police drones can’t become as familiar a sight as patrol cars, a police helicopter or an officer on the beat.”
UAVs are not being seen as a replacement to police helicopters, as some commentators have speculated, but rather an additional tool in the police toolbox.
There are exciting opportunities for the future use of police drones. In Dorset we are looking at the potential to use them to 3D map serious road collisions. This could be beneficial in speeding up the safe opening of main arterial routes which often have to be closed for hours following a serious accident. Additionally, they can be used in rural areas to police issues such a hunts, or to find missing people.
And they could also be used to fly automated set routes, for example in a crime hotspot area. In an era when police funding is so challenging, all forces need to explore the potential an asset like UAVs would give them.
I’m delighted Dorset is at the forefront of this technology and if I am re-elected, I look forward to stepping into the next generation of drones in the near future. I believe, once we demonstrate further the benefits of UAVs, that the public will be fully behind their use in helping keeping them safe.