Sussex Police are conducting a trial that could eventually lead to quadcoptor unmanned aerial systems (UAS) being used to assist with policing.
Funded by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the trial of the Aeryon Skyranger system is being conducted at and around Gatwick Airport to give police officers an aerial perspective on dealing with potential incidents.
In use, the system will be able to beam live imagery to officers on the ground, allowing them quickly assess locations and film incidents from above.
’We’ve been using the system since March 3rd when the project went live and we’ve been flying it at a number of locations around the aims of the project,’ Sgt Simon Luck, Gatwick Police Station, told The Engineer.
He stressed that the UAS is not intended to replace police helicopters.
He said: ‘These systems offer a lot of opportunities in support of general policing therefore, as…technology improves and costs are brought back down, its important that we look at alternative options in terms of what they can bring to our everyday policing operations.’
Equipped with a thermal imaging camera, the system is operated from the ground via a portable console at distances of up to 500m.
Luck added that the UAS has to be operated within strict Civil Aviation Authority regulations and that it is cleared to fly at a maximum altitude of 400 feet.
He said: ‘We’d be able to fly the system within the airport under very strict conditions, depending what the incident was, but we wouldn’t be deploying the system on a routine basis inside the restricted area.
‘The flight time is in the region of 40 to 45 minutes per battery, obviously depending on conditions in terms of wind, but so far we’ve flown it on a regular basis and are achieving 40 to 45 minutes.’
If the trial is successful the UAS could be used during operations such as collecting evidence after collisions or major incidents and in the search for wanted or missing people as well as at the airport.