UK police will use drones as ‘first responders’

  • March 7, 2024

06 March, London, UK Jeremy Hunt told MPs £230m would be used for police to spend on “time-and money-saving technology” such as unmanned flying vehicles and video technology. Drones will be increasingly used as “first responders” when the public report incidents to the emergency services.

Plans for trials where drones will be used as first responders at the scene of emergencies were announced by police chiefs in November 2023, with the first tests to be carried out in Norfolk, under a scheme named Project Eagle X.

Further trials are planned for the Thames Valley and Hampshire police forces. If testing is successful, the devices will be stationed on buildings and dispatched to crime and accident scenes, where they will be operated remotely.

Norfolk already has limited access to helicopters flown by the UK National Police Air Service. At present, their forces use about 400 drones, however, these cannot be flown out of operator’s line of sight. Plans are in place the rules to be amended for police operators to be allowed to fly drones beyond their line of sight (BVLOS), with initial trials taking place later this year in areas with closed-off airspace.

Alan Pughsley, who worked on a Home Office-commissioned national review of policing productivity, said technological advances could help with tasks including redacting documents for use in court and rapid video response, where officers speak to victims of domestic abuse via video call instead of attending in person.

Pughsley also said: “We’re pleased the work of our independent team has highlighted the huge time savings that could be achieved through better use of technology; time that could be spent attending more burglaries, more cases of domestic abuse, more incidents of antisocial behavior. The policing productivity review has found that technology can enable the acceleration of existing tasks … and provide less resource-intensive ways of delivering services. Around 97% of today’s science and technology investment in policing is spent on maintaining existing systems. There is a balance to be struck between ensuring these tools are fit for purpose and making the most of new innovations”.

Credit to: ATOS London Office