The country’s first police drone unit has launched with six sophisticated thermal image cameras able to zoom in and record crime scenes.
Using the latest high-tech drone technology the camera records video and still images in HD/4K quality and offers 24 hour a day coverage.
Officers will use the drones to hunt for missing people, to photograph crimes and to get to scenes of major road crashes quickly.
The unit, which is a joint venture by Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police, has been trialling the drones for more than 18 months.
It now has five officers trained with a further 40 aiming to complete their Civil Aviation Authority accreditation in the next year.
Chief Superintendent Jim Nye, commander for the Alliance Operations Department, said: “This is an historic step for the alliance and policing in the UK; Drone capability is a cutting edge way to support operational policing across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.
“This technology offers a highly cost effective approach in supporting our officers on the ground in operational policing.
“Drones will aid officers as part of missing person searches; crime scene photography; responding to major road traffic collisions; coastal and woodland searches and to combat wildlife crime.
“Drones can even help police track and monitor suspects during a firearm or terrorist incident, as it will allow officers to gain vital information, quickly, safely, and allow us to respond effectively at the scene.”
Drone team manager Andy Hamilton, said: “It is fantastic to see both forces working together to lead the way in utilising new, cutting-edge technology.
” Having previously been a police officer for 30 years, I have seen how technology has changed and can help us become more efficient in what we are trying to achieve.
“An example of this is historically, any aerial photos or videos have been captured by The National Police Air Service helicopter; this is not always the best use of resources.
“Instead of always sending a helicopter on an hour’s flight to take a few photos of a crime scene, we can now use a drone to carry out the same task.”
The unit is currently using a DJI Inspire drones and also have a smaller DJI Mavic to test its portability – due to it being smaller and lighter in weight.