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Drones have become powerful and vital law enforcement tools. Police in Norfolk, England, will soon be using drones to help search for missing people, obtain crime scene photography and investigate crimes in rural areas. The three-month trial is the latest in a series of county police drone programs across the UK.

The use of drone technology for police missions is still at an early stage. Because of that, it’s no surprise that instead of investing in expensive custom UAVs, police forces are looking to see what’s already available on the market.

According to, Norfolk police have bought two drones, one DJI Inspire and one DJI Mavic Pro. An ability to fly in high winds, 4K video and high-quality live transmission to officers on the ground were all a factor in the decision. The ease with which batteries can be switched in and out and a decent amount of flight time were also important.

According to Norfolk Police, the technology has already been used during incidents within the county, including forensic photography at an industrial incident, firearms incidents and searches.

Whether it’s search and rescue, crime scene photography or keeping track of a developing situation from above, drones can be deployed quickly and easily to give aerial support to police.

“Drones offer many benefits that complement the National Police Air Service helicopter,” said Deputy Chief Constable Nick Dean. “This technology offers a highly cost effective approach to help assist our officers. The option of launching a drone in the air in a few minutes could help save lives and secure evidence if a crime was in progress.”

Dean admitted that the idea of every officer having access to a drone was a long way away, but there are certainly situations in which a drone can offer a unique solution. “The drones will now be available to assist officers across the county and while we’re a long way off drones becoming standard kit in a police car, the early indications are they will be a positive contribution.”

According to a spokesperson for Norfolk Police, every time air support (a helicopter) is needed by the force it costs £1,320 ($1,744). Although drones aren’t the perfect answer for every situation, there are certain times when they would be ideal and better suited than a chopper. “To get the overall project operational it has cost less than £8,000 ($10,570), giving the Constabulary the capability of two operational drones and four qualified pilots. If we can successfully deploy to just six incidents we would have saved enough money to pay for them again.”

Drones are already on-call 24 hours a day in missing person cases in Devon and Cornwall. And it’s not restricted to police. The Kent fire service recently used a DJI Inspire drone to search for survivors when an apartment block in west London went up in flames back in June.