Kent Police started using a drone in June 2017, and we were impressed with the results.
It proved to be a cost-effective and efficient tool, supporting officers on the ground to deal with a broad range of policing activities, including:
searching for suspects
searching for vulnerable missing people
searching for stolen property and vehicles
overseeing large police operations
getting aerial imagery of crime scenes and serious road traffic collisions (RTCs)
assisting in planning police operations
getting aerial imagery of sensitive sites located throughout Kent
We expanded our kit in September 2019, obtaining five additional drones. These are carried by specially trained police officers who are on patrol throughout the county. It is hoped that by increasing our use of drones we will also increase our capability to reduce the risk to vulnerable missing people, locating outstanding suspects and providing high quality visual evidence.
We have expanded our fleet of drones, and they are carried by specially trained police officers who are on patrol throughout the county. It is hoped that by increasing our use of drones we will also increase our capability to reduce the risk to vulnerable missing people, locating outstanding suspects and providing high quality visual evidence.
We are one of a large and growing number of police forces and other emergency services in England and Wales who are using drones, and are already part of the National Drones Working Group run by the National Police Chiefs Council.
We are continually monitoring the drone market to ensure the most suitable models are used to support operations.
An external National Qualified Entity (NQE) training provider, who are qualified with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has trained the officers who operate our drones.
We hold an 'Operational Authorisation', which has been issued to us by the CAA.
How and when we use drones
Drones do not replace police helicopters.
We will use a drone for things a helicopter is not needed for, such as taking pictures of crime scenes and collisions; and when the helicopter is already being used for something else and it is appropriate to use the drone instead.
We will only use our drones when there is a genuine and legitimate need for it.
Some examples of where we intend to use our drone:
to help us quickly search large areas for vulnerable missing people
to help us manage critical incidents
to locate suspects known to be hiding in a specific area
to capture aerial images to help us with our emergency and events planning
Our drone policies set out how we will use it, how we will reduce any intrusion into a person's privacy and how we will secure the data we collect. We will follow the same processes currently used by our helicopter and officers using body worn videos:
it will only be operated by uniformed police officers authorised by the CAA
if we need to use private land, we will aim to seek the owner’s permission where possible
evidential images will be held on a secure police server which only the investigating police officer(s) can access
There are a number of benefits that the use of this technology provides:
By using a drone instead of a helicopter in appropriate circumstances, we will save a significant amount of money.
Using a drone will release the police helicopter to be used for more serious incidents, whilst still achieving aerial assistance to officers on the ground. Using the drone will help speed up tasks and save us time, for example when searching for a missing person.
A high quality camera on the drone can be used to obtain aerial photography or video over crime scenes or road collisions, which may provide vital evidence to be used in our investigations and at court.
A drone is powered by a battery, enabling us to provide aerial support whilst reducing our carbon footprint.
By using a drone in locations that are either difficult or dangerous to get to on foot, reduces the risk of injury to officers for example:
burnt out or unstable structures
At a critical incident, a drone can provide an overview that will help the Incident Commander make more informed decisions, in keeping the public and emergency responders safe, and providing the best possible response.
Recording you or your property
All efforts will be made to avoid us unintentionally recording areas not involved in the police incident that the drone is being deployed for.
On many occasions, the drone will be used within a closed cordon or scene, where you will not have access. However, there will be occasions where the drone will be used in public space such as when we are searching for a missing person.
When we deploy the drone, it will not necessarily always be recording. It may be used as a camera to assist with a search, for example. We will only take recordings when required as evidence, and we will only keep images when they are needed for a genuine policing purpose.
If an image(s) has been taken which includes you or your property, it will not be made public. It will be stored on a secure server, and only the investigating officer(s) will have access to it.
If the image(s) is not required, then it will be deleted after 31 days.
Drone use near prisons
Drones have been used to illegally supply items into prisons.
Arrests and prosecutions have been made in relation to this, though this is an ongoing issue.