Suffolk has become the latest county to sign up to the use of drones, debuting two new unmanned surveillance aircrafts to be used by local public services.
The technology, which cost around £42.5k, has been developed and funded by Suffolk Resilience Forum for use across the county.
As part of a multi-agency Air Support Unit, the drones will be used by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue and Norfolk & Suffolk 4×4 Response.
The drones will provide a range of aerial surveillance options to support emergency services and voluntary organisations across a wide range of incidents.
The drones will be based at Woodbridge Fire Station, have 24/7 emergency response capability and can be used by 17 specially trained remote pilots.
The drones will support emergency services and voluntary organisations to inform the decisions they make when dealing with an incident. They will also help to reduce risks to the public and emergency service workers.
The drones have already been used a number of times, most recently at the fire at Saxmundham train station to not only provide pictures of fire spreading and possible collapse in areas that may not have been possible for firefighters to access or see, but also to assist the joint investigation team to determine the location and possible cause of the fire.
For Suffolk Police the drones will provide general aerial photography, assist in searches for missing persons, support investigations into fatal road traffic collisions and provide aerial surveys of areas during investigations.
Tim Passmore, police and crime commissioner, said: “I am very proud to see our two blue light services working together on another successful project and particularly delighted to see SULSAR and the 4×4 response teams involved too.
“This innovative drone technology will provide another useful tool for the Constabulary in their fight against crime and I am very pleased to see the police and partners developing new ways of working together to improve the service we provide to the people of Suffolk.
“This new Air Support Unit will not replace the police helicopter but it will certainly complement it.”