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West Midlands cleared for dedicated drone airport lift-off

Britain’s first drone airport is being backed by the West Midlands force.

A pop up airport for drones is being developed with the help of Britain’s second-biggest police force.

West Midlands will be working with a private firm (Urban-Air Port) and the Civil Aviation Authority to set up a vertiport in Coventry that will be a landing and take-off site for drones.

Work on the project will start in April so the site is operational during Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations.

The force is partnering up to explore how it can further use drones to reduce crime and central government is also supporting the project.

Since its first purchase in 2017, the force has expanded its drone operations and now has 46 dedicated drone pilots providing a 24/7 service to help save lives, capture evidence and spot offenders as they try to hide or run away.

Last year was a busy one for the team with 3,450 flights taking place and the force now wants to see if access to a permanent site will further capabilities.

Assistant Chief Constable, Mike O’Hara said: “It’s an exciting time for the development of police use of drones. As a force we receive over 2,000 emergency calls a day, so the possibility of using drones to innovate the emergency service sector is endless.

“Urban-Air Port will allow us to explore, showcase and implement what the future holds for policing the sky.”

The aircraft have already become both a technical and real-time disruptor.

Other forces, including Cambridgeshire, have put them to use to tackle rural crime such as poachers. And fire crews now use them to monitor buildings during fires.

But offenders have also started using them to transport drugs into prisons and recce properties as potential burglary targets.

Owning a drone that has a camera requires a licence but the CAA estimates thousands are being used illegally.

“Our objective is not to stop people having fun or using their drone for business, it’s to make sure that everyone can share the air safely and that means sticking to the rules,” the CAA said.

Forces are increasing their use because the capability saves resources – and most have been funded from proceeds of crime orders.

Inspector Mark Colwell said: “Drones offer a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to gain footage from above. They are helping us in a wide range of applications.

"While there continues to be a need for a helicopter to carry out high-speed, long-distance pursuits, drones give us the benefit of additional air support at those times when a helicopter cannot be justified.

The company working with West Midlands said it is looking forward to showing the benefits of the technology.

Ricky Sandhu, Founder and Executive Chairman of Urban-Air Port said: “It’s a great privilege to be working with West Midlands Police to enhance safety of our communities and set new benchmarks in how through the use of technology we can provide greater security via quicker response times with zero emissions.  

“Growing up in Birmingham as a child, I’m delighted to be able to support West Midlands Police’s efforts in keeping us safe.”

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