Police drone crashed while searching for man in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 17:32 09 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:36 09 January 2020

A DJI Matrice drone. Picture: Air Accident Investigations Branch

A DJI Matrice drone. Picture: Air Accident Investigations Branch

Air Accident Investigations Branch

A drone being flown by police in Norwich suddenly span out of control and crashed, an investigation has found.

Norfolk police were using the DJI Matrice 210 drone at Hammond Court, off Magpie Road, on the afternoon of June last year to search for a man.

The Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) report reveals how the four-engine drone, fitted with optical and thermal imaging cameras, was destroyed when it crashed to the ground.

The report stated that: "The pilot had checked the weather and although very light rain was forecast, it was considered that the conditions were suitable as they were within the manufacturer's parameters."

Takeoff and ascent to 260ft was normal, the report said. And the aircraft remained static and stable for almost 10 minutes, with a battery level of 68pc.

But the camera then started to rotate and a 'motor overload' message was displayed.

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The reported stated: "The aircraft then began to spin anticlockwise whilst rapidly descending. It subsequently crashed in an open space and was destroyed on impact. There was no damage to persons or property."

The report said the pilot had "one second's warning of the failure" before control of the aircraft was lost.

Sergeant Danny Leach, from Norfolk police, said: "The drone crash was due to a manufacturing fault. The drone was assisting officers searching for a male at the time. It was being flown well within its manufacturer's safety recommendations, above an open space, in a static position, and at no point was it flown over any members of the public or property.

"Norfolk police assisted fully with the investigation and our recommendation was that this specific model and version of drone should not be flown in a congested area whilst under investigation.

"The manufacturer has since replaced the drone with a different version with no expense to the constabulary; however, we have no plans to use introduce it over congested areas until it has been fully tested and we are confident it can be used safely.

"We continually review our procedures to ensure all safety measures are in place and we have an excellent safety record with our current fleet of operational drones.

"Drones are extremely beneficial, especially when searching for missing and vulnerable people. They are cost effective with the ability to cover large areas in a short amount of time, reducing the demand for officers to search vast and remote areas on foot."

The AAIB has investigated a number of crashes involving that make of drones and has recommended that the Civil Aviation Authority tells users that there is a possibility that moisture could enter the drone when it is being used in rain, causing a "sudden loss of control".

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