A police drone operator flying a UVA that almost collided with a fighter jet has revealed that 34 police officers are trained to use drones in his constabulary alone.
The unnamed operator, who was commenting following an Airprox Board investigation into an incident in January, when his drone came within metres of a jet travelling at 520mph, gave an insight into the extent to which drones are now used for policing purposes.
He said that Devon & Cornwall Police, which has been using drones for two years, now operates a total of 12 UAVs, all of which are sub-7kgs, with officers specially trained to use them.
On the day of the near-miss, he was using a DJI Matrice, which weighs 6kgs and has four rotor arms.
More than half of the UK’s 42 police forces now deploy drones, the operator said.
According to Airprox Board, the officer had completed a task and was returning to the landing site at an altitude of 250-300ft when he heard a fast-jet approaching from an unknown direction and descended the drone as quickly as possible.
The jet came into view from right-to-left and seemed to pass by the drone at the same altitude. The officer said that it looked like the jet was within 200m laterally of the drone and he honestly believed a collision was going to occur.
He noted that as police officers they have a stringent set of procedures prior to every flight, he had checked NOTAMs, checked the airspace, informed NPAS and Air Ambulance and used the Drone Assist App from NATS.
The incident happened on the northern edge of Dartmoor, some distance from any notable habitation and therefore in an area where military aircraft can operate to their minimums. Both the drone operator and the F-15E pilot were operating within their regulations.