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Drone deployments: keeping up with the paperwork


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It may not be long until UK forces start incorporating drones as part of their everyday operations. But they need to modernise their handling of the administrative burden that comes with deployments so they don't become anchored down by the paperwork.


Date - 27th July 2020
By - Chloe Livadeas

Forces are trying to keep up with the admin side of planning drone deployments, which is mostly done manually across different digital platforms combined even with pen and paper.

Thales Aerospace is a technology company that recently launched Soarizon, a software to streamline and digitalise the planning, deployment and logging of drone operations.  

Callum Holland is the company’s Flight Operations Manager and a former Met officer who also used to run a drone business.

“We want to get to the point where drones are as commonplace as handcuffs on an officer’s belt. That comes with an enormous administrative burden, and the only way to overcome that is through a digital tool,” he said.

The safety planning, pre-deployment surveys and risk assessments that accompany a flight means a long checklist that multiply as the force’s number of drone deployment goes up.

“That slows everything down and hinders your ability to go and fly more,” said Mr Holland.

“Soarizon is a technology to try and fill that gap.”

Launched in 2019, Soarizon specialises in emergency services use of drones and are seeking to digitalise the entire process.

The software is a "one stop shop" that brings together information from different sources in real-time onto one platform, such as maps, weather data, risk assessments data on Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs), flight restrictions and any other airspace intelligence.

Soarizon said the digital system “helps the operator conduct a comprehensive risk analysis, manage equipment, and even store pertinent details about the mission flown”.

“A mission which might have previously taken up to a day to plan, scope, and fly can now be done much more quickly and efficiently while ensuring compliance."

Missing persons is the most common example, but the potential is being realised more and more for less expected uses such as reopening roads after collisions, illegal raves and keeping people safe at sporting events.   

Mr Holland said he was a proponent that most times “nothing beats somebody in uniform, boots on the ground”.

“It's very difficult to replace that. Drones are just another tool in the toolbox.

“The drone is not going to revolutionise policing. It’s is a device that can be used alongside all that other tools that they have available to them in a particular situation to speed things up.”


Callum Holland, Thales’ Flight Operations Manager

Mr Holland does not want to box-in the value of drone deployments into specific types of policing operations.

“The more we integrate drones as just another tool for officers, they're going to come up with our own use cases that they can adapt to evolving situations in front of them, and use them for things that we never thought of.”

The possibilitiesopened up further when the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued new guidelines in April this year that allow police drones to fly higher, closer to targets and beyond the line of sight of the operator. 

These extra allowances are restricted to pandemic operations but the undeniable advantage drones have brought to the emergency services could mean more liberties will come into place down the line allowing forces to expand their use futher still, with their potential still not fully realised. 

“Once they are widespread, I'm interested to see what the boots on the ground come up with using them for, because I think it will go beyond what we’ve identified,” he said.

As these cases grow, so does the public scrutiny, like when Derbyshire Constabulary sparked outrage by using a drone to monitor people walking in the Peak District during lockdown.

Mr Holland said the use of drones was not just about ‘Can we do this?’ but ‘What will the public think?’

“How do we take the public on this journey with us, how do we demonstrate that we use these aircraft to the benefits of it as a whole, and that it isn't just a big brother eyes in the sky?”

He said the police were in a unique position of having “incredible use cases that society would accept”.

“But humans are naturally wary of authority. And when you integrate something new or give that authority, a new power or a new piece of technology, they're going to come against scepticism in their intentions,” he said.

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