Recent reports have indicated that police or emergency response helicopters in parts of the UK were so sluggish that thousands of incidents were missed in receiving assistance. According to the HM Inspector of Constabulary, there could be several reasons for this. The cost of flight hours has increased, nearly doubling since 2009 and in 2016, the report stated that over 24,000 missions had been rescinded mid-flight. The report said some of the constabularies opted to use drones as opposed to the National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopters.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr has stated that urgent reform is a necessity and that there is concern growing amongst a number of chief constables as a result.
He said, “If we go on as we are I think we’ll get chief constables and PCCs (police crime commissioners) increasingly dissatisfied with the service.”
He further stated that the reform needs to be enacted urgently and it must be wide-reaching. Mr. Parr said that airborne support for police was in the stages of development and that
the implementation of drones and fixed-wing aircraft were alternatives to what they currently have.
Since its start in 2008, NPAS the number of stations dedicated to it has dwindled, with only 15 out of what was originally 31 still remaining and the number of police helicopter aircraft has diminished, as well, with only 19 of 33 still intact.
Reports indicated also that dependent upon location police helicopter reaction was not so rapid. Response times across England and Wales have been reported to be wildly variable. With the longest wait time reported in Cumbria county at over an hour before police helicopters responded. The least amount of delay occurred in London where the on average response time frame was roughly 10 minutes.
The high costs of police helicopter assistance have led to some departments investing in drones and UAVs. Authorities in Surrey and Sussex have reportedly spent a cumulative 300,000
(400 thousand USD) pounds on UAVs and Durham recently purchased a solitary unmanned aerial system for 1,450 (1900 USD) pounds.
Chairman of the NPAS, Mark Burns-Williamson commented that the service needs to consider next stage developments. They need to spend some dedicated to exploring “how drones can impact on the wider service.”
It’s important to note that this is not an indication that emergency response helicopters themselves are slow. Quite the contrary, helicopters are utilized throughout a wide array of emergency response industries because of their swiftness, ease of access in heard to reach places, maneuverability, and speed.