The Aeryon Skyranger will be controlled by an officer on the ground using a portable console

Police to trial drones at Gatwick Airport

A police force will trial the use of drones to monitor incidents in and around Gatwick Airport in West Sussex.

Sussex Police will test the Aeryon Skyranger for three months, which will beam live high-quality pictures to officers on the ground, allowing them to film incidents from above and to respond to what is happening on the ground more quickly, a Sussex Police spokesman said.

Landowners and those living nearby have been told about the trial and anyone with concerns can find out more about the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on the force's website, he said.

An officer will control the drone from the ground, in line of sight, using a portable console from up to 500m away, in line with the current Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations. The equipment is expected to be used for the first time later this month, police said.

Superintendent Brian Bracher said: "The aim of the trial of the system is to make the airport and the area around it even safer by allowing us to monitor a wide area from the sky. It could help us collect evidence and monitor events from a distance, which would help us detect crime and prosecute offenders.

"It could be used in situations where deploying patrols would put officers or the public at risk. At the same time, the UAS (unmanned aerial system) offers a cost-effective alternative to a manned aircraft, is quickly deployable and can stay in the air for a longer period of time.

"This will not replace patrols but will instead give us the opportunity to monitor incidents on the ground from an extra angle."

If the trial is successful the UAS could be used for collecting evidence after crashes or major incidents and in the search for wanted or missing people, as well as at the airport. The spokesman said it would offer a different view to officers than that of the police helicopter.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: "The benefits of using unmanned aerial systems to assist police operations has already been proven in other police force areas and I am pleased that Sussex Police is trialling this innovative, cost-effective technology.

"Using these systems can help improve the effectiveness of police patrols and, ultimately, increase public and officer safety.

"A number of other agencies are already using this system, which will also enable Sussex Police to work more efficiently and collaboratively with partners."

The scheme is being funded by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) to test how effective it could be in policing and Sussex Police will keep the equipment at the end of the trial.

Similar technology has been used in the past by police forces in Merseryside, Essex, Staffordshire and Northern Ireland, the police spokesman said.

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