With the aim of enhancing their search capabilities for vulnerable people, particularly over wide and challenging terrain Police Scotland will be using drones in searches for missing people. While stating that the two RPAS, which will be operational from 1 May, Police Scotland added this would allow for faster searches of large areas. The “state-of-the-art” remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) will be based with officers in Aberdeen and Inverness.
Statistics reveal that only last year, 3,494 people were reported missing in the north east and 2,343 in the Highlands and Islands. Police Scotland previously ran trials of the technology in Aberdeen and Inverness making the cities’ officers the first in Scotland to use drones in operations.
The drones will be operated by trained, uniformed officers in searches of urban and rural areas, and also in support of “local policing incidents and pre-planned operations and events”.
Police said that they would inform the public via social media where possible about imminent drone use for rescue and search operations. The Police also assured that the use of recorded images would be managed in line with current guidelines and privacy laws including General Data Protection Regulations.
Head of specialist services Ch Supt Matt Richards said: “The addition of the RPAS to our air support capability will ensure we can deliver this service to the north of the country when previously weather or terrain may have prevented or delayed this. The introduction of the RPAS will be hugely beneficial to teams for example, when searching for vulnerable or missing people, particularly in the remote areas that we have in the north of Scotland,” while adding that, “the RPAS will not replace the Police Scotland helicopter and there will still be occasions where we deploy the helicopter in the north rather than the RPAS.”
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf commented: “This state-of-the-art new equipment will help Police Scotland keep communities safe, “The Scottish government continues to support innovation within Scotland’s police service and has ensured that the policing budget for 2019-20 is more than £1.2bn.”
Susan Deacon, chairwoman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), said the new system was a “further step forward” in ensuring that Police Scotland had the tools and technology they need to keep people and communities safe while adding that, “The SPA will continue to support innovation and investment in our police service to ensure it continuously adapts and develops for the future.”
The drone technology was used previously in Police Scotland operations in 2015 in the search for a hill-walker who went missing in the North West Highlands. Kilmarnock-born Eric Cyl, 62, was last seen heading off into the Mamore mountain range near Fort William. Extensive searches by mountain rescue teams were made of the area, including Ring of Steall and Steall Falls. Police Scotland used a small drone for taking aerial images which could be examined for signs of Mr Cyl but he remains missing.
Further use of drones to carry medicines for example is being considered by authorities.
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