A hi-tech drone will be deployed by Lincolnshire Police later this year as part of a new drive to tackle rural crime.
The unmanned aerial vehicle will be trialled before a force-wide roll-out. The project is part of a new Rural Community Safety Plan developed by the force in response to calls from Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones.
The first drone will arrive this week and will undergo a series of operational tests to enable the PCC and the force to assess how many drones will be needed to ensure full coverage of the county.
Equipped with a thermal imaging camera, the drone can be used in a range of operations and will give officers the ability to capture still or video images on difficult terrain and hard to reach areas such as woodland or coastline.
It will be able to locate missing people much more quickly than officers on foot and should prove invaluable in combatting rural and wildlife crime. It could even be used during a firearm incident, allowing officers to gain vital information, quickly and safely and allow the force to respond effectively at the scene.
It will also be available to help other emergency services and could have the capability of pinpointing people trapped in burning buildings or be used during floods to assess damage and find stranded residents.
Around £16,000 is being invested to get the first drone operational. The cost includes the thermal camera, training and licenses.
Mr Jones said: “Drones will give our force new capabilities in combatting crime and protecting our communities and residents. Since taking office I have been determined to equip the force with the best available kit to help them keep all our communities safe. This is an exciting step on that journey but that drive will continue.”
The drone should be operational by August after permission to fly is granted by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Insp Ed Delderfield, who is leading the project, has spent months reviewing the available equipment and assessing the use of drones in other areas across the UK.
He said: “This is an exciting development and we are looking forward to testing the equipment and scoping out the ways in which it can help with operations. The potential is fantastic and we plan to expand the number of vehicles once we have a firm grasp of how many are required to ensure we have full coverage of the county.”
Insp Delderfield hopes to obtain a pilot’s license within the next few weeks but will be taking the drone to a number of county shows over the summer so the public can see, and ask questions about, the equipment.
The new project comes just weeks after Mr Jones announced the purchase of a fleet of nine new 4X4 vehicles which are due to arrive later this year.