A police force is set to launch Britain’s first 24-hour drone unit to find missing people, take pictures and help with major crime investigations.

Devon and Cornwall Police has advertised for a manager to head up the unit, which will launch in the summer and will be shared with Dorset.

An advert for the post says the “operational and dynamic” unit will be run from nine stations across the three counties.

The scheme comes amid warnings that cutbacks to police budgets have caused a “national crisis” and left forces with a severe shortage of detectives and investigators.


A police drone flies over a line of officers blocking protesters in Derbyshire
Image Caption:
A police drone flies over a line of officers blocking protesters in Derbyshire

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman on drones, said the use of remote-controlled devices would allow cash-strapped forces to “rationalise” their resources.

“I would not be at all surprised if other forces follow in due course – the question is not whether they will, it’s when,” he told the Daily Mail.

“There may be an opportunity at some point in the future to rationalise what we need our cops to do because we find drones can do it more effectively and more cost-efficiently…an example of that would be looking for missing people.

“That opportunity has not yet manifested…there will be a point where that question gets asked.”


The force has used drones to give officers a bird's eye view of crime scenes
Image Caption:
The force has used drones to give officers a bird’s eye view of crime scenes

He added: “I think it’s a brave senior officer who will make that step that is going to cut cops because they have got drones.

“If delivering the best service within the budget means using drones for something, a cop is now free to go to that burglary. It’s about freeing resources.”

Devon and Cornwall Police began trialling unmanned aerial devices in November 2015, acquiring four DJI Inspire 1 drones equipped with high-definition cameras.

The devices were first used in the search for a missing woman, in coordination with police dogs and members of a local rescue group.

In May 2016, Sky News learnt that half of the UK’s police forces were using drones or planning to do so.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of fire services were also using unmanned aerial devices, which were credited with saving emergency workers’ lives.