Cheshire Constabulary and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service have joined forces to fund a state-of-the-art drone at a total cost of £25,000.
The drone – which is also known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – will be used to assist with police enquiries and fire incidents during a six month trial period to assess its capabilities and inform future plans. The DJI Matrice 210 has a powerful digital camera and a thermal imaging camera.
Three police officers and three firefighters have been trained and accredited to the CAA standards to pilot the drone, which will be used to support various operational activities during daylight hours in the trial period.
Drones are being used in 22 other forces across the country and it is expected that the Constabulary will use it for a variety of purposes including;
• Searching for missing people
• Assisting with public order events
• Assess road traffic collisions
• Identifying cannabis farms using the thermal imaging camera
Drones are not as common in fire services in the UK but the Service believes that it could give real benefits to firefighters when dealing with large scale fires. The thermal imaging camera will be able to quickly identify any heat sources and giving firefighters on the ground the information they need to fight the fire safely.
The drone will be based at the joint Police and Fire Headquarters at Clemonds Hey, Winsford, and during the six month trial period will be deployed only in day light hours.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane, said: "Police currently use the national Air Support Service (NPAS) for all its aerial requirements such as search and photography. Although manned aircraft will always be required for some operational activities, there are opportunities, such as when aerial photography alone is required, that drones could be more suitable, quick to deploy and more cost-effective.
"We have been monitoring the use of drones in other police forces and we think the time is right to test this new piece of equipment out for ourselves. This trial will help us to assess the benefits of the system in Cheshire.
"It is also important to stress that the drone will only be used for a specific purpose on operations, and not for general surveillance. We are also delighted that we can share the equipment with the Fire Service to ensure the best value for taxpayers in the county."
The chair of the Cheshire Fire Authority Councillor Bob Rudd said: "This is an exciting project and should really improve the Service's ability to tackle large scale fires and road traffic collisions and to help keep our fantastic firefighters safe. It is an amazing piece of equipment and demonstrates again both services commitment to the blue light collaboration project.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing the outcome of the trial."