Drone unit that captured Gateway to Wales Hotel footage unveiled by police

Reporter:

David Humphreys

North Wales Police has unveiled its first ever drone unit.

The latest drone technology has been trialled in North Wales Police since late 2017 and an operational drone unit has been set up.

Capturing high quality video and still images, the drones will be used to assist with searches for missing people, road traffic investigations, major crime incidents and event planning and management.

The tech has already been used to assist North Wales Fire and Rescue Service in their response to the Gateway to Wales hotel fire in Garden City in December.

The team’s two drones, which have police livery and can also be equipped with a thermal imaging camera, have already been used to search for missing people and investigate crime.

A total of 15 police officers and staff members have completed their Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) training which involved passing a theory exam and practical flight test. A number of ‘drone spotters’, who assist the drone pilots, have also been trained across the region.

Inspector Craig Jones from the Operational Planning Unit said: “The drones are highly effective in capturing still or video images on difficult terrain and hard-to-reach areas. They allow officers to gain vital information, quickly and safely, and to inform our decision-making.

“The drones have a downlink which means officers on the ground can see live footage captured by the drone in the air.

“One recent example was the fire at the Gateway to Wales Hotel in Deeside where we assisted colleagues from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service.”

Stuart Millington, senior operations manager at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The opportunity to see an aerial moving image that shows hotspots utilising thermal imaging capabilities is a significantly useful tool in order to resolve operational incidents.

“The agreement in place in North Wales that allows fire and rescue service incident commanders to consider the deployment of this resource is a great example of how partnership working between emergency services can improve the outcome for the communities that we collectively serve.”

Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard added: “The drones offer a highly cost effective approach to help assist our officers.

“Being able to launch a drone in the air in a few minutes could help save lives and secure vital evidence if a crime was in progress.”

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