Police forces face an increasing challenge in finding more efficient ways to fight crime as budgets and resources have become stretched over the last decade. In addition, police departments have different requirements across the country. For instance, in large cities like Atlanta, police stations are densely situated to ensure timely dispatches to crime scenes; but in rural areas, police resources are more spread out. This same dynamic is present in other countries as well, which is why DJI worked with the Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police – collectively the largest geographical police entity in England and Wales – to show how drones can be used by police around the world.
Drones in law enforcement
Officers at D&C and Dorset face many types of incidents that range from supporting vulnerable persons to dealing with serious and organized crime. The situations often involve people who might harm themselves or others, and the end goal is always to minimise the risk to all parties involved and bring the incident to a safe conclusion. The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise can be especially helpful to police departments in achieving this goal.
D&C and Dorset were among the first in the UK to discover the benefits of deploying drones, which have been used in standard operations since 2017. The two departments formed an alliance in 2016 to provide mutual support in equipment, expertise, and pilots. “Deploying drones for operations has proved to be a perfect way to gather information and intelligence about the incident the team may be facing," says James Rees, the Sergeant who leads the Alliance Drone Team.
Keeping a safe distance
Above all, it is important to contain the crime scene. Gathering intelligence about the suspect’s movements is crucial to minimising risk for the public – and the subject – while maximising the safety of the officers. Aerial imaging from drones like the Mavic 2 Enterprise can help identify the location of the suspect and then evaluate the risk level when the crime scene needs to be scouted from a distance due to safety or tactical reasons. During an operation, there are many critical pieces of information that can be put together with the help of drone imagery and data. For example, determining the presence of civilians within a given area, the exact location of the subject and whether he or she is armed – or even spotting an escape route or vehicle nearby. Rees points out that these insights enhance the effectiveness of deployment and tactics plans.
Mavic 2 Enterprise in action
When arriving at the scene, officers need the drone in action immediately to support the operation. The Mavic 2 Enterprise checks all the boxes; its ultra-compact and foldable design means it is ready to go within minutes, and ts total weight including the modular accessory remains about 2lbs.
In order to protect the public, the officers often have to set up a containment area around the incident, and a visual containment can be the first step. Equipped with a set of low-noise propellers and a dynamic zoom camera, the Mavic 2 Enterprise can be deployed in minutes, allowing officers to capture detailed images of the scene without flying any closer. "It makes a difference in operational decision making to know if the subject has immediate access to a weapon," says Rees.
Sometimes the drone needs to operate in close proximity to buildings and vegetation, and as the pilot focuses on the flight path to acquire aerial data, the Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing system of the Mavic 2 Enterprise provides support by preventing collisions and keeping a safe distance from buildings, trees, and other surrounding objects.
The footage obtained from the UAS will sometimes be required for legal purposes after the operation concludes. The GPS timestamp is a new feature which supports post-incident analyses. The stamps are integrated in both pictures and videos and provide information about the location and time sequence, which helps officials retrace details of the incident. As these cannot be altered, the police are able to prove that the data has not been tampered with.
Going hand-in-hand with this security measure is the new password protection of the Mavic 2 Enterprise. As data security is a sensitive matter for police work, the request to enter a password in order to take off or access the 24 GB on-board storage assures that the data stays safe even if the drone falls into the wrong hands.
The all-new accessories
According to Rees’ colleagues Ricky Fidler, Dorset Police Chief Pilot, and Tom Shainberg, Devon & Cornwall Police Chief Pilot, the new modular accessories on the Mavic 2 Enterprise are the most innovative features.
Containment incidents by nature often happen in low light conditions, defined by the time of day, weather, or infrastructure, which can halt or jeopardize risky operations. The Mavic 2 Enterprise is equipped with a bright spotlight which assists officers operating in low light scenarios.
The attachable speaker is a new accessory that helps officers communicate with each other more effectively at the scene, as well as with suspects and citizens. In a containment situation, the speaker can be used to address the suspect to negotiate a surrender. In other scenarios, the speaker can be an invaluable tool for addressing and reassuring injured people in rescue operations or overseeing large crowds of people at gatherings like concerts or demonstrations.
The future of drone usage for police officers
“In Devon & Cornwall and Dorset, I can see the use and deployment of drones going from strength to strength," says Rees. “They create opportunities for us to look at the way we approach each incident and then how we manage those incidents more effectively and with fewer risks. The Alliance Drone Team and I feel confident that the feature set of the new Mavic 2 Enterprise will mean that it will add value to a wide variety of police operations.”
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