On Wednesday 21st March 2018, Wiltshire Police were awarded status as a National Qualified Entity (NQE) by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which gives accreditation for the Force to train and certify drone pilots for the emergency services and members of the public.
Wiltshire will be the second UK police force permitted to train emergency services drone pilots, but the first to also be permitted to train members of the public to fly drones too.
Wiltshire Police has operated a volunteer led drone unit since May 2017. Special Superintendent Scott Bateman is a jumbo jet pilot in his ‘day job’ and wrote the operations manual for the Wiltshire Police drone unit.
Scott said, “We initially trained our six remote pilots with a commercial pilot trainer back in February 2017 and had our operations manual approved by the CAA in May. Our volunteer Special Constabulary pilots have been called to attend incidents and support policing operations more than 300 times since the unit began. Developing the training school to enable us to train more pilots and increase our capacity was the next step.”
“We have been using drones to help officers on the ground search for missing people and offenders at large, take aerial photographs of crime scenes and RTCs, and occasionally to support larger policing operations where the ground commanders can really benefit from having an eye in the sky.”
“We are the first UK police force to be awarded a full and unrestricted approval to train uav pilots. This is a great achievement and will allow us to expand our capability whilst also engaging with non-emergency users to improve the safety of drone use for all.”
PC Mark Talliss, who is a specialist trainer in the Force’s learning and development department, wrote the training material and learning plan for the training course for new pilots.
Mark said, “I’ll be putting the new pilots through their paces in an intensive training course where they will need to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the air law relating to drones, safety procedures, how the drones work, the weather systems that will affect them, the regulations around where they can point the camera to minimise the risk of intrusion on the public, and of course plenty of practice at flying it.”
“Privacy is really important and we have very strict rules to obey, so making sure that privacy and safety are at the forefront of our pilot’s minds every time the drone goes up is really important.”
The Force hopes to have its first cohort of student pilots through the training course in the next few weeks with an ambitious expansion plan to make the drones available to all parts of the county whenever they’re needed.
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said, “Volunteers play a pivotal role in our Force and in protecting our county. This new technology assists police and other emergency service operations on the ground, including finding casualties in large open areas enabling life-saving first aid to be given, and providing a much needed eye in the sky.
I am committed to keeping Wiltshire Police at the forefront of modern technology and leading the way with innovation to keep Wiltshire one of the safest places in the country to live.”
Wiltshire Police are looking to support other police forces and other emergency services by allocating spaces on the course for other agencies to help bring drones into policing throughout the country. The Force wants to make best use of the aircraft by exploring opportunities to share equipment and capability with partner agencies and deliver value for money to the community.
In future when the training needs of the emergency services and police partners have been met, the Force will be able to open its door to the public to offer training for aspiring commercial drone pilots.
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said, “I am so proud of the hard work and dedication our team have put into making this happen for Wiltshire, it was an honour to see them deservedly recognised for outstanding innovation and teamwork at both the regional Special Constabulary awards last year and at our Force award ceremony in February.”
“Drone technology is safe and relatively inexpensive now, making it an obvious choice to add to our toolbox for preventing and investigating crime and keeping people safe. I can see as we train more pilots and our drones become more accessible to general policing we’ll see them being used more than ever.”
“It is my intention to ensure our local community policing teams have ready access to drones so that we can continue to provide a high quality local service to our communities. I believe that the use of such modern technology helps to keep us one step ahead of criminals and also helps us to safeguard and protect vulnerable people.”