p3 charity homeless drones

Drones used to locate rough sleepers in remote, rural areas

A charity is tracking down homeless people who are sleeping rough in countryside areas using drones equipped with live-streamed video.

Live footage from the drone is assessed by team members at the P3 charity so that they can direct their colleagues to the person via the quickest and safest route.

The charity is testing the technology in Lincolnshire, where it says it can take its team of outreach workers hours to find a homeless person in the sprawling rural setting without drone technology.

The organisation, which describes itself as a social inclusion charity, hopes that scouring live footage from the drone will cut that time dramatically, ensuring the person gets help faster.

The charity said the drone, bought for £600 by chief executive Mark Simms out of his own money, has been tested and will be used in searches from this week.

p3 charity homeless drones 1

Image credit: pa

“This technology will revolutionise our ability to direct our support to vulnerable people sleeping rough,” said P3 service coordinator Andy Lee.

“Often when we receive information from the public letting us know about someone sleeping rough the location is vague, for example ‘in the sand dunes along the North Shore’ or ‘down the public footpath and across the field’ and of course sometimes the person has also moved on from this location.

“Because the drone will help us to search vast areas within a relatively short period of time, we will be able to locate people much faster, assess the easiest and safest route to access their location and guide our support workers remotely to them.

“It will prove to be an invaluable asset, because time is always the key factor when we’re trying to find someone.

“Being able to reach a person, assess their situation and begin working with them – after receiving that call from the general public – means our energies can be refocused to ensure the person receives the right support, is safely accommodated and can begin the process of rebuilding their life.

“This technology has the potential to transform our working practice by giving us back the hours we would spend searching for someone to invest in directly improving lives.”

Daniel Duffield, who also works for P3, said: “We’re using the Phantom 3, with the FOV 94° 20 mm [35 mm format equivalent] camera; this comes as standard with the drone that has a 4,489 mAh flight capability. This enables us to view the search area in high-definition, remotely until we have located the person and assessed the best route to get to them.”

The charity, which believes it is one of the first in the UK to use this method, said it will look at expanding into other rural areas like Gloucestershire if the pilot project is successful.

In June drone experts floated the idea that they could be equipped with 3D printers to automatically fill potholes with asphalt as soon as they appear. 

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