WATCH: How Derbyshire police have been using drones

The use of drones has helped Derbyshire police to respond to over 1,000 incidents and save thousands of pounds in just 12 months. 

The force's Drone Unit is one year old on Monday, after its 24/7 drone capability went live for the first time on 31 August 2019. 

Police say the unit has been deployed to around 1,250 incidents - from finding missing people and helping to detect cannabis grows to tracking down suspects on the run as they hid in bushes or jumped over fences. 

It was also "an invaluable asset" to officers when the Toddbrook Reservoir dam at Whaley Bridge almost failed last summer. 

Using their innovative technology, the Drone Unit were able to fly close to the flow of water to capture footage of the damage to the dam structure, and provide angles from above to help officers and engineers get a complete view of the situation.

Their powerful imaging and thermal equipment has been deployed on a wide variety of incidents, including searching remote locations for missing people, providing aerial views of warrants being executed, crowd policing at football fixtures and directing firefighters tackling wildfires.

It has been calculated that the team has saved the force approximately £18,000 per month on officer deployment hours, and almost £750,000 a year in situations where the National Police Air Service would have otherwise been called out to assist.

Drone Team Operator PC Matt Moore said: "Originally, the unit consisted of just two trained officers, and as demand of the unit steadily increased, the full benefits of the drones were realised.

"Now, our unit has expanded from two to 27 pilots, with each of those officers trained to have this extra skill set alongside their primary role. I’m so proud of how much the team has grown, and all that we have achieved in such a short space of time." 

The force now has 16 drones in total, based in Buxton, Chesterfield, Cotton Lane in Derby, the Rural Crime Team, Roads Policing Unit, and Collision Investigation.

Officers obtained their permissions for commercial operations from the Civil Aviation Authority, making them well-versed in the regulations surrounding drone flight in the UK.

Assistant Chief Constable Kem Mehmet said: "The drones seriously complement the force's other resources and more traditional policing methods. They better equip our officers with the kit they need to serve the people of Derbyshire. The increase in the number of officers trained to pilot the drones assists us daily in targeting resources appropriately, saving time, money and lives." 

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