AN AERIAL drone hailed by Merseyside Police as the latest tool in the fight against crime was declared “lost at sea” after crashing into the River Mersey.
The craft, which was launched in Merseyside four years ago in a hail of publicity, now apparently lies at the bottom of the river.
Because of force budget cuts, senior officers have also decided to consign any plan to replace it to the depths of the ocean.
Police lost control of the £13,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) while operating it from the Riversdale Police Social Club, in Aigburth, on a “routine training exercise”.
Bosses spoke to the red-faced officers after the incident.
Those involved in the expensive mishap were “given advice” – police jargon for a dressing-down.
The drone went AWOL on a Wednesday afternoon at the club, which is used for police functions and celebrations.
The Mersey is a mere 500 yards from the force’s playing field, close to Liverpool Cricket Club.
The drone was high above the Aigburth club when police said it suddenly lost battery power
Interestingly for the UAS industry Merseyside Police will not be replacing the UAS.
Back in February 2010 an arrest touted as a first for drone Policing landed the force in its first spot of bother.
For Merseyside police, the “eye in the sky” arrest was a landmark moment in policing history. The force had managed to track down and apprehend a teenager who had fled from a presumed stolen Renault Clio, senior officers revealed, by using a remote-controlled flying robot equipped with thermal imaging cameras.
But the attempt to claim credit for the UK’s first arrest using a surveillance drone backfired tonight after it emerged the force itself could face prosecution because officers flew the surveillance aircraft without permission – a criminal offence.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which regulates UK airspace, confirmed it was investigating Merseyside police over the apparently unauthorised use of its drone to pursue the 16-year-old after he fled from a suspected stolen car in Bootle. It is one of three UK forces using the drones.
Officials from the regulator’s Aviation Regulation Enforcement Department (ARE), which investigates and prosecutes alleged breaches of airspace, are investigating the incident, and Merseyside police has told regulators the drones have been grounded with immediate effect.