Gatwick Airport and the area around it have become the site of a ground-breaking police trial of a small unmanned mini-quad coptor.
From this month, Sussex Police have begun running the trial of the unmanned aerial system (UAS) at and around the airport, to give them an eye-in-the-sky to deal with potential incidents.
The system will be able to beam live high-quality pictures to officers on the ground, allowing them to more quickly assess locations and film incidents from above.
An officer will control the aircraft from the ground, in line of sight, using a portable console from up to 500 metres away.
The trial of the Aeryon Skyranger system is being funded by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to test how effective it could be in policing.
Land owners close to the airport are being shown how the system works and are being asked for their permission to deploy the equipment from their land.
The officers who will be using the equipment will do so in line with the current Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations.
The aircraft is expected to be used for the first time later this month.
If the trial is successful, the UAS could be used during operations such as collecting evidence after collisions or major incidents, and in the search for wanted or missing people, as well as at the airport.
Superintendent Brian Bracher said: "The aim of the trial of the system is to make the airport and the area around it even safer by allowing us to monitor a wide area from the sky.”
Supt Bracher said: "It could help us collect evidence and monitor events from a distance, which would help us detect crime and prosecute offenders.
"It could be used in situations where deploying patrols would put officers or the public at risk.
"At the same time, the UAS offers a cost-effective alternative to a manned aircraft, is quickly deployable and can stay in the air for a longer period of time.”
He added: "This will not replace patrols but will instead give us the opportunity to monitor incidents on the ground from an extra angle."
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: "The benefits of using unmanned aerial systems to assist police operations has already been proven in other police force areas and I am pleased that Sussex Police is trialling this innovative, cost-effective technology.”
She said: "Using these systems can help improve the effectiveness of police patrols and, ultimately, increase public and officer safety.
"A number of other agencies are already using this system, which will also enable Sussex Police to work more efficiently and collaboratively with partners."
To see what the UAS records from the air visit: http://youtu.be/S-tOFkCzoo8.