What are drones/UAVs?

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. The term UAV covers a wide range of systems from the small childrens' toy to large military systems. UAVs are most often referred to as drones and this is how the Emergency Services refer to them.

What types of drones do Surrey Police and Sussex Police use?

We currently operate a few different drone models across Surrey and Sussex. As drone technology advances, we aim to ensure we have the most up to date drones to best meet our needs in the service of our communities across the counties. Therefore, the types of drones we operate does change.

Currently our main frontline drone fleet is made up of the DJI M210 and M300, the Evolve SkyMantis and for some of our specialist teams such as Roads Policing and our Tactical Firearms Unit, the DJI M2E which is a smaller more agile drone.

Our drones are small battery powered rotor systems. Commonly known as quad or hexacopters they are powered by 4 or 6 electric motors. They take off and land vertically like helicopters.

How much did they cost?

Our drones cost between £2500 and £30,000. We purchase our drones through the police national procurement framework. This means our drones are supplied by different companies.

How many drone pilots do we have?

We currently have approximately 150 pilots across Surrey and Sussex to maintain a drone capability 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The nature of policing means that the exact numbers vary as officers move to other roles or are promoted.

Our pilots are trained to CAA standard and must complete a minimum of 2 hours flying in every 3 months to maintain their permission to fly.

What cameras do they carry?

Our drones have the option of carrying the following cameras:

  • Dual daylight/thermal camera.
  • Daylight HD camera.

What are we using them for?

We are using drones to:

  • Search for missing people and suspects.
  • Assist with investigations into Road Traffic Collisions, Major Crime and Industrial Accident investigation.
  • Support event planning and management.
  • Provide situational awareness to officers and commanders in a variety of spontaneous and pre-planned policing situations.

Our drones are only deployed for specific operational tasks and are not used for general patrol or surveillance - they are not patrolling the skies above Surrey and Sussex daily.

How do we think drones will help us?

Using drones will help us:

  • Use our resources more effectively by having the right resources in the right place at the right time to resolve incidents quickly.
  • Enhance the safety of the Public and Emergency Service personnel by deploying a drone into situations which would otherwise involve risks to individuals.
  • Provide good quality evidence to assist in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders.
  • Enhance joint working with other Emergency Services.

Do we have to comply with existing regulation and legislation?

Yes. The Emergency Services need to work within the existing legislation and regulation in respect of drone use. We operate in accordance with our Permission granted by the CAA. All our pilots are qualified remote pilots having passed a CAA accredited training course and we are fully insured and registered as an operator with the CAA.

Our operator ID is: OP-MGJZRPN

What about Privacy and Data Protection?

We have worked closely with the Information and Surveillance Commissioners offices and with them developed specific Privacy Impact Assessments for our use of drones and a Self-Assessment document to test compliance against the CCTV codes of practice. 

The Surveillance Commissioner has visited us and viewed a drone being operated, declaring confidence in how police are using drones.

We are aware of recent concerns over security of data obtained by certain types of drones and comply with national guidelines for mitigating potential data vulnerabilities of drones.

We use the same processes for storing images taken by our drones as we do for our Body Worn Video cameras.

How do I make a complaint about the police use of drones?

If you wish to make a complaint, please use the complaints form.