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A third of forces would use drones instead of helicopters

PCC says her force don't use up allocated flying hours because NPAS base is too far away

Drones with wider capabilities and an increased range would be a more economic way to run police air support the NPCC conference has been told 

Currently, all forces pay to fund the National Police Air Service (NPAS) at a cost of more than £40 million per year. NPAS is set to have new hosting arrangements followng a decision by West Yorkshire to eventually withdraw from its current role as overall lead force for air support.

Chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Donna Jones said on Wednesday that around a third of forces want to use drones instead.

She said her own force, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight "rarely use up their flying hours" because by the time an NPAS helicopter reaches the force area from its base outside "the burglar has gone."

Even so the force still pays £4.7m for air support as part of the NPAS contract. 

Speaking to journalists at the NPCC in Westminster she said: “I think that drones have a part to play in the replacement of the National Police Service in the future potentially. These helicopters are incredibly expensive.” She continued: “By the time they’ve been deployed to their base to let’s say, a burglary in action or someone running away at night-time using the infrared cameras that have on them, the time to get from their base to the location they’re needed in police forces often means that there is limited use of them.

“Drones are much quicker. They’re much more agile. The technology now is improving incredibly, and police and crime commissioners have been pushing strongly to the Home Office that drones should be a very viable alternative.”

Ms Jones said: “The military ones are superb. They are much more capable, can go much higher. And of course that does make them very useful for covert policing, as well.

“So we have made representation through the APCC to the Home Office on this and the policing minister is aware, and we will have ongoing discussions that could potentially save tens of millions of pounds.”

She estimated that it could take more than two years for progress to be made on the plans.

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