Controversial police drones that can remain airborne for 36 hours tested in Welsh skies
An initial evaluation of remotely piloted aircraft technology has been carried out by the National Police Air Service (NPAS) as it seeks to explore how this technology might be used to deliver public safety in support police forces in Wales.
With police input and joint funding from the Home Office and Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the trial included a series of simulated typical police aviation scenarios currently fulfilled by the existing national fleet of helicopters and aeroplanes in support of the 43 police forces of Wales and England, and British Transport Police.
Seeking to determine whether the capabilities of this technology can be put to use to serve the unique national requirements of UK policing, NPAS made use of the Elbit Systems Hermes 900 – an Israeli medium-size, multi-payload, medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a 15 metre wingspan.
The drone is controlled by two crew on the ground, and can reach speeds of 140mph, and can stay airborne for around 36 hours.
With the trial at south west Wales Airport near Aberporth now complete, a report will follow which will provide a detailed assessment of the capabilities offered by this class of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and its fit to national policing requirements.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “Our police confront danger to protect us and they deserve the best tools and the best technology.
“These trials may point to a new and more effective way for the police’s air service to do its vital job – finding missing people and bearing down on crime.”
Captain Ollie Dismore, Director of Flight Operations at the National Police Air Service said: “Meeting the diverse needs of the police forces of England and Wales requires both flexibility and versatility.
“With continuous advances in UAV capabilities, UK policing is rightly seeking to explore the viability of platforms such as these for possible future use in delivering police air support nationally.
“Currently serviced by our national mixed fleet of helicopters and aeroplanes, police forces require us to embrace innovation and make use of advancing technology, including seizing opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint. This will allow us to continue to make the best use of resources into the future and best ensure public safety.
“If this technology enables us to fulfil our national remit more efficiently and either as or more effectively than with our current assets, then it will be considered as part of a future national police air service fleet.”
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