Rise of the drone keeps Lancashire police busy

Police in Lancashire were called to 159 drone-related incidents in 2016
Police in Lancashire were called to 159 drone-related incidents in 2016

A surge in police incidents involving drones has been blamed on the increasing popularity of the devices.

Officers in Lancashire were called to 159 drone-related incidents in 2016, a three-fold increase compared to the year before.

Anyone flying a drone is responsible for each flight, responsible for avoiding collisions and should be aware of restrictions about using drones in a public place

The figure, up from just seven in 2014, is the fifth highest across all forces in England.

Nationally, the flying gadgets are at the centre of thousands of episodes registered by forces, including rows between neighbours, prison smuggling, burglary ‘scoping’ exercises, mid-air near misses and snooping fears.

Lancashire Police said examples of drone-related calls received in the last month included nuisance from flying too close to homes, theft, safety concerns from drones being used in public places and messages alerting police to plans to use them at public events.

A force spokesman said: “As the popularity of drones continues to increase, so too do the number of reports made to police by the public.

“Anyone flying a drone is responsible for each flight, responsible for avoiding collisions and should be aware of restrictions about using drones in a public place.”

Available for as little as £30 and often boasting built-in cameras, sales of the gadgets have risen sharply in recent years.

While drones have increasingly become a source of call-outs for police in recent years, they are also used by officers to assist in a range of incidents, from missing people to the response to the floods in 2015.

The Lancashire Police spokesman added: “We would urge anyone who owns a drone to become familiar with the Civil Aviation Authority’s guidelines on keeping flights safe and legal. More information can be found at www.caa.co.uk.

“If you have concerns about the misuse of drones in your area, call police on 101.”

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for drones, said: “As awareness of what drones are and what they can do continues to grow, police forces have seen increases in concerns and reports by the public.

“We have to balance the growth of this technology by ensuring that the public are aware of the strong regulatory framework and detailed user guidance that is available relating to drone use.”

Ministers are considering a number of additional safety measures, including mandatory registration of new drones.

In 2015, a drone cause a security alert at BAE Systems in Warton. The company said it caused no risk to safety but police later spoke with a Freckleton man in relation to the incident.