BAPCO conference preview: the use of UAVs by Lincolnshire Police
Ahead of his presentation at BAPCO 2020, Lincolnshire Police’s operational drone lead Ed Delderfield talks about how use of the technology is transforming the force.
With that in mind, one potentially fascinating presentation taking place in the latter will be delivered by Lincolnshire Police’s Ed Delderfield and Martyn Parker, who will discuss the use of UAVs by their home force.
According to Delderfield, the organisation’s drone project has indeed revolutionised the way it does business when it comes to increasing situational awareness, finding missing persons and so on. The technology has also filled a vital gap left by a crucial organisational change effecting police air cover at a national level.
Across the county
Discussing the origins of the Lincolnshire drone project, Delderfield says: “The main driver was around the lack of air support from the National Police Air Service [NPAS]. They’ve gone from a model where if forces could afford it, they could choose to run their own helicopter, to something more amalgamated. It’s now a national, ‘borderless’ structure, with the number of available aircraft cut in half.”
He continues: “The upshot of that for us was that we couldn’t get requests for air cover, for instance due to bad weather. Our nearest police helicopter is now south of Leicester, which is approximately 100 kilometres away, so we suffered disproportionately from a lack of coverage.”
Having been given the job of setting up the drone project in light of these changes, Delderfield’s first task was to ascertain what exactly was required in terms of air cover for a county that is both vast (over 2,000 square miles) and overwhelmingly rural. He also had to decide what the drone units themselves would look like in terms of structure, given the comparatively small number of officers employed by the force.
Elaborating on this, he says: “For us, it was essentially about availability and timeliness when it came to getting drones on the scene. We only have about 1,000 officers, so instead of a dedicated unit, we’ve ‘multi-skilled’ those on the front line so they can operate the drone as and when required.
“It’s essentially the same as when an officer is able to carry something like a Taser as an additional speciality, a technology which, again, in a different force, might have its own dedicated section. Officers in Lincolnshire will attend incidents in the normal way, and if a drone is required they can send one up as part of ‘business as usual’.”
He continues: “One core benefit of the structure is that it enables us to deploy the technology on a 24/7 basis. If we get a missing person reported in the middle of the night, for instance, we can have the correct resources on the scene within half an hour, rather than waiting for the drone unit’s shift to begin at eight the next morning. It’s that ability to provide a spontaneous response with a thermal-capable drone which has led to the majority of our successes.”
Moving on to the subject of the technology itself, Lincolnshire currently has one drone stationed in the northwest of the county at Lincoln, and another in the southeast at Boston. Those units (manufactured by DJI) provide good-quality digital and thermal video capability, covering a range of more than four miles.
Speaking of how the tech is being put to use in an operational context, Delderfield says: “While obviously we can’t replace the functionality of a helicopter, the quality of optics we get from the drones is pretty much as good as you’d get using NPAS equipment. That’s been extraordinarily beneficial in the field, as well as enabling us to develop new use-cases as we go.”
He continues: “The primary advantage that UAVs give us is the provision of an aerial view. That’s invaluable in any number of scenarios including crime scene investigations, dealing with car accidents, as well as surveillance of things like drugs factories.
“Another way in which they’ve been really useful is in relation to different areas of training – riot, firearms and so on – due to the fact that they allow officers to view tactics from above. We’ve also deployed them at quite a lot of pre-planned events such as Lincoln Christmas Market, as well as protests, and football matches at Lincoln City.”
To read this article in full, see the upcoming February issue of the BAPCO Journal.
Ed Delderfield will be presenting in the Drone Zone on both days of BAPCO 2020.
For more on the use of cutting-edge communications technology by the emergency services, register your interest and join us at BAPCO 2020.
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
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