Durham Police prepare to launch drones in fight against crime

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This post originally appeared on http://m.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/14558976.Durham_Police_prepare_to_launch_drones_in_fight_against_crime/.

[Editor’s Note: An example of how the drone might be used is to search a roof space, in order to establish a secure footprint.]

A NORTH-EAST police force is preparing to deploy drones in its fight against crime and for a range of other operations.

Durham Police plan to use the drones for reconnaissance of buildings or places suspected to be used by criminal gangs, to provide footage to help in contingency planning and for searching for missing people.

They can also be used when the police helicopter is grounded by bad weather, to help deal with traffic incidents.

Inspector Mick Button, who is being trained to pilot a drone, said two of the devices owned by the force are expected to be in use by the summer – once the Civil Aviation Authority has granted authorisation.

Insp Button said: “Sergeant Peter Hoole of Darlington Police, who is a hobbyist, approached the executive to suggest their use.

“He made a bespoke version (costing £2,500),with a high definition camera. We are developing that further to include a heat-seeking camera.”

The force has recently spent £800 to get an off-the-shelf MUVI X-Drone from Veho.

It is able to record high-definition video and take high-resolution photographs, using a stabilised and controllable on-board camera.

Insp Button said: “There may be times for example where we can use it to search for electricity extraction linked to a cannabis grow.

“It might be at the have a prominent member of the royal family or the prime minister visiting and we need to establish a secure footprint of where they will visit.

“We might employ staff to do a search.

“This can be sent up and do a search of the roof space within minutes.”

The 1.4kg device can climb at speeds up to six metres per second and stay up for 20 minutes at a time, while an in-built GPS function means it can return to its launch point if control is lost, or if it detects a low battery.

Insp Button said to comply with regulations, the drone had to be kept within line of sight of the operator.

Assistant chief officer Gary Ridley said: “This is still at an early stage for Durham Police.

“It is going to continue to develop over time as technology expands and also as we get a better understanding of what we can do with the technology.

“Policing and the things that we deal with continues to change.

“Therefore we have to adapt our thinking all the time and this is just one example of that.”

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