People can feel safer in crowd pulling public events thanks to Police drones which will be on monitoring duty at major Melbourne events and high-risk locations such as the MCG.
The drone unit expected to be in full operation by the end of August and will change the way Victoria Police fights crime in everything from emergency situations to search and rescue. The service’s first-ever drone unit; a fleet of up to 70 drones that have the ability to fly 24/7, possess night vision will be utilised by police officials to monitor emergency situations and during search and rescue operations, but they will also reportedly be used to monitor crowds at “high risk” public events.
According to a police spokesman the Police Air Wing would be the central point for the organisation’s drone services, and manage the drones and staff training. The aim is for drone unit staff to progressively train other officers from specialist areas such as Operations Response Unit and Search and Rescue, along with regional officers to provide their own localised basic drone services. Funded by the state government, the specialist taskforce will also further arm the force in the fight against terrorism.
Stating that the addition of mobile eyes in the sky would be a boost to the capability of police across the state including during a raft of emergency situations Inspector Craig Shepherd said, “The introduction of this unit is expected to enhance the work our police do every day, from attending crimes scenes, managing emergency situations, public order management, search and rescue and situational awareness. We will also be upskilling police across the state to ensure they have their own localised drone service.”
Inspector Shepherd added, “The drones we plan to use will have a 24/7 ability, with high end technology allowing for both day and night camera vision,” which means that drones would enable police to fly in and provide advice during tricky situations or supply first aid equipment or water.
The drones to be used include the Matrice 210 commercial model, which comes complete with thermal imaging technology for night vision, an integrated camera system for HD video recording and inbuilt encryption technology. The smaller drones, the Mavic Pro, can travel at speeds of up to 64km/h.
Liberty Victoria’s Tim Warner said drones represented a far more intrusive mode of surveillance adding, “It would be an absolute boon to search and rescue, but that doesn’t mean you want ‘Constable Todd’ to be looking over your balcony or back fence without some guarantees over what the restrictions and rules are about the use of the drones.”
In September the force’s counter terrorism boss Ross Guenther had drones on the wish list according to The Age and cited examples of their successful deployment by the US and UK police. “If you have a concert in the park, you put a backpack down but walk on, a drone will stay on that and send images back to the police command post. We really are in the Jetsons-type age right now,” he said at the time. In December, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) announced the rollout of new technology across Australian airports to thwart drone attacks and track rogue drone operators within minutes.
Emergency Services Victoria already uses drones to monitor the state’s high risk bushfire zones. It’s also anticipated that Victoria Police will later be armed with drone guns to allow trained officers to shoot rogue aerial devices from the skies as seen during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland.
Drone guns allow the user to sever the connection between the unidentified user and their drone, effectively sinking it from the sky with a signal jam. Queensland Police use DroneShield technology, as does the US military and UK army.
A company spokesman said the Australia Defence Force has also used their technology to protect international leaders attending a 2018 summit in Sydney. It’s understood that exemption from rules governing wireless interference is needed for the technology to proceed in Victoria.
Other states including NSW and South Australia already use similar technology with drones allowing police to assess dangerous situations including bomb threats and sieges as well as conduct covert operations and rescue missions.
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