Wiltshire Police is pleased to announce the launch of our Unmanned Aviation Support Group (UASG) pilot.
In 2016, Chief Constable, Mike Veale was exploring an opportunity for Wiltshire Police to follow the lead of a small number of forces in developing an Unmanned Aviation capability to augment the provision provided by the National Police Aviation Service (NPAS).
The Chief Constable recognised that members of the Special Constabulary already had extensive experience in this area, and decided to harness their experience by asking these Special Constabulary officers to take the lead on the project. Special Superintendent Scott Bateman has led the project and swiftly brought the aircraft into service.
Members of the Special Constabulary and one regular police officer have been professionally trained in the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and the proper licences have been obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Special Constables undertake a variety of different roles in their day jobs and have the same powers as regular officers. They all give at least 16 hours a month, many volunteer for many more hours, and get involved in all areas of policing.
Chief Constable Mike Veale said: "Wiltshire Police is always looking to embrace technology and be innovative in our approach, so I am delighted to be able to welcome in UAVs.
"This is also a fantastic opportunity for us to draw on the skills and enthusiasm of the incredible volunteers in our Special Constabulary. They have made an outstanding effort to do the training and get the required licenses to provide what can be a key resource for the Force.
"Of course, you can never replace the knowledge and experience of police officers with technology, but this resource can certainly really help them in their work."
Throughout the trial the UAVs, also known as ‘Drones’ will assist operational policing, enhancing officer and public safety by giving an aerial overview and in conducting searches for missing people.
The UAV can access areas a helicopter cannot, like low levels or densely wooded areas.
They can be used at night time and with heat seeking capability and can fly in cloudy/windy conditions. They can also be useful tools in the fight against rural crime enabling us to search large remote spaces quickly and can take footage of a crime scene which may assist investigations.
Special Superintendent Scott Bateman who has set up the UASG said: “My team are really enthusiastic about the project and have put a great deal of time and effort into making the pilot a success.
"I would like to reassure the public that the UAV’s will not be used to ‘spy’ on people; they will only be in use for operational reasons as deployed by the force Control room. The users will comply with CAA regulations in the same way that anyone else who fly’s a UAV must do so. Any footage that is captured is treated in the same way as any other footage (CCTV) or still images and is subject to the same codes of practice and laws.
"When the Police UAV is in use you will see very visible POLICE UAV IN USE signage displayed in the area, and the pilots will wear police uniform with POLICE UAV PILOT on their outerwear.
“We are determined to make sure that the UASG is a valued tool for the force over the coming months.”
Supt Dave Minty, Head of HQ Operations: “We are looking forward to seeing the benefits of this new tool and the advantages of using UAV’s in the fight against crime and to enhance officer and community safety.
“This is another fantastic example of the value of our volunteers in the Special Constabulary, all the work in setting up the pilot, organising training and the proper insurance and licences has been done by Special Supt Bateman and his team.
“They are a real credit to the Force and the communities they serve alongside regular officers and staff.”
PCC Angus Macpherson said: “Making use of technology as an operational tool to search, document crime scenes and give greater visibility in times of need across our town, villages and more rural locations can only enhance Wiltshire Police’s capability to help keep our communities safe.
“I have significantly invested in the Special Constabulary and I am pleased to see Wiltshire Police are harnessing the skills, knowledge and experience Specials bring to the Force.”
Alongside their use as an operational tool, if the pilot is successful Wiltshire Police will also work to become an accredited training centre for a police specific UAV course.
If you would like to find out more about the Special Constabulary and becoming a Special Constable please see www.wiltshirepolicespecials.co.uk