UK Police Force to Launch First 24-Hour Drone Unit

UK Police Force to Launch First 24-Hour Drone Unit

It seems that automation isn’t merely the reserve of commercial interests: a UK police force has revealed that it is to employ a new 24-hour flying drone unit, the first of its kind in the country. This literal Flying Squad – a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles designed to help police officers with investigations by surveying crime scenes of searching for missing people with the aid of on-board cameras – will be operated by Devon and Cornwall Police in the South-West of England, though it will also cover parts of Dorset, a neighbouring county.

Devon and Cornwall Police are currently advertising for a new Drone Team Manager to handle the unit, which spans nine police stations over the three counties (Devon, Cornwall, and Dorset), but the force insists that use of the technology must “never be an excuse to cut officers.”

The officer in charge of the drone unit thinks this pilot scheme could soon be adopted by other police forces across the UK, and that such advances could change how police officers do their jobs.

“I would not be at all surprised if other forces follow in due course – the question is not whether they will, it’s when,” Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, who is in charge of the drone unit, told the Daily Mail.

On the threat this unit could cause to human coppers, Barry was cautious, explaining that it would inevitably trigger conversations about replacing people with robots, but that it may not necessarily be a smart move.

“There may be an opportunity at some point in the future to rationalise what we need our cops to do because we find drones can do it more effectively and more cost-efficiently … an example of that would be looking for missing people,” Barry said.

“That opportunity has not yet manifested … There will be a point where that question gets asked,” he added. “I think it’s a brave senior officer who will make that step that is going to cut cops because they have got drones.”


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