Drone to Give New Perspective on Football Policing Operation

Cleveland Police will join with Cleveland Fire Brigade to pilot the use of a drone at Sunday’s premiership fixture between Middlesbrough Football Club and Manchester United.

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Colin Douglas (CFB), Simon Weastell (CFB), Tony Costello (Cleveland Police), Chris Birkbeck (CFB) and Simon Walker (Cleveland Police)

The drone will give specialists working on the day access to real-time aerial high definition footage, which will be live streamed to the Fire Brigade’s Forward Command Vehicle.

Stringent rules govern the use of drones, and it will not be flown over the Riverside Stadium or close to the ground. A police officer, who is licensed and trained in the use of the devices, will be operating the aerial equipment.

It is the first time that both organisations have made use of a drone and it is hoped that it will help public safety by enhancing awareness of crowd dynamics outside of the ground.

If successful, there would be the potential to explore the use of drones in missing person enquiries, for large scale events, fires, chemical spills and road traffic collisions. Like the police helicopter, drones are weather permitting, so those involved will be looking at the forecast closely.

Superintendent Mark Thornton, who is leading the football operation, said: “This is a great opportunity to harness modern technology whilst collaborating with Cleveland Fire Brigade to keep football fans safe.

“Drones are becoming extremely popular, but they are governed by strict guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority and we have been in regular contact with various agencies to ensure that our use in these circumstances follows the necessary rules.

“These devices open a whole new world for us and there is certainly potential in having aerial shots of things like road traffic collisions and tailbacks, and to search areas for missing people. We are always looking for new and innovative tools for our policing operations, and whilst drones will not replace the use of the National Police Air Service, they could prove to be a helpful addition.”

Phil Lancaster, Director of Community Protection for Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “We think this is a great opportunity to collaborate with Cleveland Police to assess the feasibility of using drone technology for the incidents which we attend.

“We know from other fire and rescue services around the country that using drones to supply real time aerial footage during incidents has enhanced their capability to bring them to a successful conclusion. We look forward to seeing the results of this pilot scheme.”