Drone as First Responder trials for UK police

In a ground-breaking first for first response drone operations in policing in the United Kingdom, drones have been deployed to monitor festivities at the Isle of Wight music festival, held at the end of last month.

The Isle of Wight Festival is a British music festival which takes place annually in Newport on the Isle of Wight, England. This year’s event welcomed 55,000 people to Seaclose Park and saw performances from artists including The Prodigy, Pet Shop Boys, Suede, The Streets, The Pretenders and more.

It was at this event that the Isle of Wight Constabulary and Thames Valley Police chose trial drone technology as part of its vision to integrate the unmanned aerial vehicles into its programme called Drone as First Responder (DFR).

The DFR concept is being developed and tested by the National Police Chiefs’ Council Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) pathways programme and aims at seeing police drones launched and piloted remotely to provide a fast response to incidents, feeding back real time information to police control rooms and operational units.

“This was the first time we’ve been able to put the DFR technology to use in a live environment and it gave us a great insight to just how effective it could be as part of a routine policing response in the near future, helping keep people safe and providing a dynamic and responsive view of the situation on the ground,” said Chris Stagg, who is part of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary and Thames Valley Police Joint Operations Unit and is also the NPCC BVLOS Project Lead.

The trial at the Isle of Wight Festival created a simulated DFR capability in addition to the force’s routine police drones resource and saw a drone being flown from an IDI Automated Deployment System (ADS) – essentially a remote box from which the drone is launched.

A drone pilot himself, Stagg led the experienced team running the trial, which was stationed at a temporary heliport set up for the festival within a temporary restricted area.

In addition to the live view, the DFR capability was deployed in response to a request to check that road closures were correctly in place, freeing up officers on the ground to continue their public safety patrol duties.

The NPCC brings UK police leaders together to set direction in policing and drive progress for the public. Working with partners such as the College of Policing and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), the council helps the police cut crime and keep the public safe by joining up the operational response to the most serious and strategic threats.


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