Regardless of the changes in our society, the emergency services continue to play a major role in maintaining order. One 16-year-old girl could certainly attest to that, as she called 911 to report that she’d been attacked in October 2018. With that in mind, though, the police then sent out a drone to locate her.
Due to the hazards of their job, police forces across Britain have looked at new ways to help the public. Indeed, certain cities have attempted to capitalize on some advanced technology to reach that goal in the past few years.
One example of that is the growing usage of drone technology. Back in 2006, the police force from Merseyside, England, planned to monitor what they described as “problem estates” with a group of drones. According to one of the senior officers, an operation like that wouldn’t cost as much as using a helicopter.
However, it wasn’t until 2017 when the technology really started to take off with the authorities. Indeed, the forces in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall launched a drone group, unprecedented for British cops, in June that year. The unit was made up of six drones, each boasting cameras with thermal imaging capabilities.
On that note, Lincolnshire Police looked to follow suit. Consequently, 20 of its officers started to train with the drones in August 2017. As they familiarized themselves with the technology, Inspector Ed Delderfield revealed the county’s plans.
“We will essentially have four bases with five people at each base,” Delderfield told BBC Radio Lincolnshire in August 2017. “So in the best case scenario is that four pilots and four drones will be available 24 hours a day. The idea is that if the call comes in that aerial support is required we can have a drone on scene anywhere in the county within 40 minutes.”
Much like the forces in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, the Lincolnshire drones would use thermal imaging cameras, aiding their search for a suspect or missing person. With that in mind, costs were expected to reach about £150,000 ($194,000) to launch this unit across the county.
In Delderfield’s mind, though, the financial hit was worth it. “We can deploy the drones to all sorts of different things,” he added. “So from missing people, suspect searches, crime scene mapping and also rural crime when it looks at hare coursing is a big force priority for us.”
On that note, Delderfield’s hopes for the future came to fruition in October 2018, as a 16-year-old girl dialed 999. The teenager reported that she was being held captive by a man who had just raped her. However, while she didn’t know where they were, the girl offered a description of the location, telling the authorities that she was in a big industrial building.
The 16-year-old also described a large fence surrounding the building, which led the Lincolnshire force to dispatch one of their drones. Using the thermal imaging camera, the police were able to find the teenager and her attacker “within minutes,” with officers taking the man into custody.
“Our drone unit helped to locate her and she was found with a man in his 30s,” a Lincolnshire Police spokesman told U.K. website the Independent in October 2018. “The man was arrested. Officers from our Emerald Team, who are specifically trained to support victims of rape and sexual assaults, are supporting the victim.”
However, this wasn’t their first success with the technology. Indeed, back in June 2018, the force’s drone pilots prosecuted someone for the first time. A man was sentenced to three years in prison for cannabis production. After that, Inspector Delderfield provided an in-depth look into the operation, which took place in October 2017.
“We had received information that this man was potentially growing cannabis and we knew that he had done so before,” Delderfield told the Lincolnshire Police website. “Where this man lived was surrounded by trees and bushes, so it was actually like a compound.” With that in mind, the drone’s thermal imaging camera then came into play.
“We turned up and flew the drone 400 ft. across an open field, before hovering 50 meters from the property,” Delderfield continued. “The heat source was obvious and we scrolled through our different filters to highlight the ‘heat’ in a number of different spectrums.”
At that point, Delderfield gave some insight into the time it took to pull this off. “The filming from the drone took one minute and 20 seconds, and it was only in the air for five minutes from start to finish,” he added. “From here we passed the footage on to the investigating team who used this to get a court warrant for the first time in Lincolnshire.”
Unsurprisingly, this success gained some praise, including from Marc Jones, the police and crime commissioner. “I’m delighted to see yet another fantastic example of the impact drones can have on our operational capability,” he told the website in June 2018.
“The investment in this equipment has already proved its worth in its cost effectiveness and in its ability to help our front line officers keep our communities safe,” Jones added. “We will continue to look for new ways in which the latest technology can aid us in our drive to be the most effective and efficient force possible.”
With the drones becoming more useful by the day, Lincolnshire Police created an official Twitter account for the unit. Since then, the page has amassed more than 3,000 followers and earned more than 1,500 likes. The unit have shared footage from their drones on the social media website.
The incident involving the 16-year-old girl was one of them, earning more than 300 retweets and 1,000 likes. The unit have also shared drone footage from other successful operations. These included finding a man with hypothermia after a car crash. When they located him, a team was then sent out to save him.
Due to the success of the technology, it’s believed that of the 45 police forces in Britain, 31 use drones. With that in mind, more officers were undergoing training to work with them, similar to the Lincolnshire Police. The future is very much now.