South Yorkshire – Development of force ‘drone’ capability approved

Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley: "This will really help us in keeping our communities safe."

In the coming months, work will begin on developing South Yorkshire Police’s Small Unmanned Aircraft – drone – capability.

Led by the Airport Policing Group at Doncaster, the project started with the acquisition of two drones last year, specifically to provide flexible coverage of Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s airfield in the event of an incident.

Funding has now been approved by senior officers to expand the force’s fleet of drones from two to eight operational aircraft, which will be deployed routinely for a variety of operations.

PC Gordon Sitch explains how he saw potential for expansion: “Whilst experimenting with our first two drones and after discussions with other forces, it became clear that we could be using this technology beyond the airfield’s fences. We have made the case for investing in further aircraft, so that they can be used more routinely across the force.”

Operational Support Unit Inspector Martin Rodgers has supported the project: “Whilst we will still be working closely with our colleagues at NPAS (National Police Air Service) for certain operations, adding this resource will mean we can respond more quickly and spontaneously to incidents.”

As well as increasing the number of aircraft, 20 officers from across the force will undergo extensive pilot training in line with Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

Once training has been completed, the force will have 24/7 drone coverage and aircraft will be able to be deployed to help officers with a variety of operations, including:

  • Search operations; including missing person searches
  • Major incidents
  • Crowd monitoring at sporting events, parades, concerts and festivals
  • Proactive operations; including warrants

Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley says increasing the force’s drone capability is an exciting step: “This technology brings huge opportunity to improve our service to our communities. By developing our fleet, we will have another flexible and highly adaptable resource to help us in a range of spontaneous and pre-planned operations, giving us that extra dimension of a controlled oversight to inform what is happening and what best the Police can do.  This really will help us in keeping our communities safe.”

Pilot training is due to start in March.

If you want to follow our pilot’s progress, we will be documenting their training on social media using the hashtags #SYPdroneschool #SYPdrones

South Yorkshire Police