Across the 37 police forces who responded to freedom of information requests as to the number of calls they had received from the public concerning drones, a total of 4543 calls were logged in 2017, up from 3449 calls logged by the same forces in 2016. This is an overall 32% increase in calls.
The overall number of actual drone related calls is likely to be higher, as some forces were unable to provide data on the precise number of calls received, with the Metropolitan Police for example, giving only the number of specific crime related incidents logged by them.
Whilst the 32% average increase in calls across the country is substantial, there are wide variations between individual forces. Some forces, such as Derbyshire, Dorset, Gwent and Leicestershire, in fact, reported a decrease in the calls made to them.
As in 2016, the police force with the highest number of drone related calls logged was Sussex, with their calls received increasing from 240 in 2016 to 346 in 2017, almost one a day. The information provided by Sussex Police unfortunately is not detailed enough to be able to identify a clear picture of the precise nature of the calls being made to the Sussex force. One force who do however provide a clear breakdown of the calls received from the public are South Yorkshire Police. They have seen a 117% increase in calls in 2017, going up from 62 in 2016 to 135 calls last year. The largest single category of calls received by South Yorkshire related to drones flying over residential and public property, of which there were 68 calls. Within this type of call, some concerned possible privacy violations, others were noise concerns, whilst others were concerned with drones being used for criminal purposes. Other categories of calls that South Yorkshire Police received included 15 in respect to the theft of drones; 5 relating to drones being flown near schools or in the vicinity of children; and, 23 were made by professional drone flyers who were advising the police of the particular locations they were flying in. The government have been very concerned with the use of drones for flying contraband into prisons, and 6 of the calls made to South Yorkshire related to this problem.
The level of drone related calls made to the police in 2017 is certain to reinforce the government’s belief in the need for additional regulation, and this will indeed be arriving very shortly with a new Bill being introduced in Parliament addressing drone use. The government have already flagged up that the new Bill will include compulsory registration for drones weighing in excess of 250 grams and a requirement that drone flyers take a basic online test to ensure they have an understanding of the law and how to fly their drones safely.
Besides the use of drones to deliver contraband into prisons, the other major concern of the government has been in regards to the level of drone near misses with manned aircraft. Recently it has been claimed that a Russian hobbyist drone flyer was able to get his machine weighing just over 1kg to an altitude of 33000 feet. Whilst recent planned police operations have been successful in apprehending criminals flying contraband into prisons, there remains no reports of any drone pilots responsible for plane near misses being identified.
The increasing number of calls being received by the police nationally could be put down to the simple fact that there are more drones being bought and flown, and as such this increase is reflected in the concerns of the public. One unknown factor is the novelty factor, and some calls are being made simply on the basis that members of the public are not yet used to drone technology.
Drone related calls made by the Public to UK Police forces
|Avon & Somerset||7||9|
|Devon & Cornwall||110||143|