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Police units covering three neighbouring UK counties have established the country’s first full-time drone unit, according to a report by Sky News. The story says the forces are using the DJI products for everything from search-and-rescue operations to capturing crime scenes and images from above serious traffic collisions.

Eventually, says the story, the Devon, Cornwall and Dorset forces hope to have 40 officers trained to fly the drones.

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The head of the unit, Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, told Sky News: “Drones can even help police track and monitor suspects during a firearm or terrorist incident, as it will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly, safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”

With a quick bit of research, we discovered the three forces actually started testing out the potential for drones back in January. A news release from the Devon and Cornwall police stated then they’d be working together with Dorset to operate four DJI Inspire 1 drones, evaluating their effectiveness over a six-month period.

One of the first DJI Inspires purchased, back when it was a trial project. Photo by Andrew Sinclair, Devon and Cornwall Police
One of the first DJI Inspires purchased, back when it was a trial project. Photo by Andrew Sinclair, Devon and Cornwall Police

“Having the option to put a drone in the air in a few minutes notice could help save lives,” said Inspector Andy Hamilton in the release, calling the technology “a highly cost effective approach to missing person searches, crime scene photography, and responding to major road traffic collisions.

“Using a drone to capture still or video images on difficult terrain and hard to reach areas such as cliffs, woodland or the moors to find a missing person, combat wildlife crime or even during a firearm incident, will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly and safely and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”

Devon and Cornwall Police aerial photo capturing a traffic incident
Devon and Cornwall Police aerial photo capturing a traffic incident
SCOTLAND’S GOT THEM, TOO…

Last week, a Scottish team called the Lochaber MRT (Mountain Rescue Team) used a drone to successfully locate a female climber who’d injured her leg while climbing Sgurr á Bhuic in the Scottish Highlands.

Now, reports the BBC, the same rescue team has been using its drone to map an area where two different hikers went missing two years ago. The photographs will be stitched together to form a 3D map in the hope it may assist in revealing areas and clues that are difficult to otherwise see.

Some of the kind of terrain where the volunteer Lochaber MRT carries out its searches. MRT Facebook photo
Some of the kind of terrain where the volunteer Lochaber MRT carries out its searches. MRT Facebook photo

When one of the two men disappeared, a drone was used during initial search-and-rescue operations. Despite ongoing attempts to locate any clues or remains, nothing has shown up.

Eric Cyl, 62, and Tom Brown, 65, both went missing two years ago in the Scottish Highlands
Eric Cyl, 62, and Tom Brown, 65, both went missing two years ago in the Scottish Highlands

Increasingly, drones have become the go-to tools in search-and-rescue operations. They can cover more ground, more quickly, and use sensors such as thermal imaging cameras to quickly detect subjects even in total darkness. This was the case in a high-profile search and rescue in western Canada TDC covered earlier this year.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF SEARCH

In Colorado, meanwhile, drones are being used to try to track a nasty bug called the emerald ash borer. The invasive green jewel beetle destroys ash trees and can quickly spread in an urban environment. Now, in the city of Boulder, drones are helping to try to track the destruction – and halt the advance of the voracious beetle:

THE NEED FOR SPEED

And we’ll cap off this edition of #TheBuzz with something on a lighter note. If you haven’t heard already, the Drone Racing League has some serious coin up for grabs in its 2017 season. FPV hotshots will be racing drones through stadiums, abandoned shopping malls and other venues in a total of 16 courses set up around the world.

The League recently released this very slick video that gives you a sense of the speed and skill involved. Even if you’ve seen it already, it’s worth another 60 seconds of your life:

Nice.

If you’re flying this weekend – have fun, be safe, and remember that we’re all ambassadors of this hobby.

If you happen to get a nice aerial you’d like to share, follow @TheDigiCircuit and give us a shout-out with your image. We’d be happy to RT some of our favourites!

 

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