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 children’s toy to large military systems. UAVs are most often referred to as drones and this is how the Emergency Services refer to them.

What drones do Surrey Police and Sussex Police use?

We currently operate a number of different drone models in Surrey and Sussex.

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.

We have 5 Aeryon SkyRangers which weigh 2.6 kg including battery and camera. They can operate in all weather conditions and in winds of up to 65kph.

We also operate DJI Phantom 4 Pros which are flown by Police Forensic Collision Investigators to help investigate Road Traffic Collisions, Yuneec H520s which are used to support policing operations and DJI M210s which alongside our SkyRangers are used to support both Police and Fire and Rescue service operations. In addition we operate a number of DJI Mavics in support of specialist policing teams.

How much did they cost?

Our Aeryon SkyRangers were purchased using external funding grants, they cost £64,000 each including cameras. The DJI and Yuneec systems vary in price from £1100 to £20,000.

How many drone pilots do we have?

We maintain sufficient numbers of pilots to maintain a drone capability 24/7 and 365 days a year. The nature of policing means that the exact numbers vary as officers move to other roles or are promoted.

What cameras do they carry?

The systems have the option of carrying the following cameras

  • Dual daylight/thermal camera (4 x digital zoom)
  • Daylight HD camera (4 x digital zoom)
  • Daylight HD camera (30x Optical Zoom)

What are we using them for?

We are using drones to:

  • Assist with searches for Missing Persons.
  • Assist with investigations into Road Traffic Collisions, Major Crime and Industrial Accident investigation.
  • Assist with Event Planning and management.
  • Provide situational awareness to Officers and Commanders in a variety of policing situations.

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

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 staff by deploying a drone into situations which would otherwise involve risks to individuals.
  • Provide good quality evidence to assist 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 operators have passed a CAA accredited training course and are qualified remote pilots. 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 worked with them in developing 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 Sussex 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. We comply with national guidelines for mitigating potential data vulnerabilities of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

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