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Police Scotland drone trial takes off

Almost 4 million invested in hubs to crack-down on cyber-related crime.

Police Scotland has announced plans to invest in new cyber hubs and purchase new unmanned aerial vehicles.

The UAVs will be used as alternatives to the force helicopter in rural and remote areas, primarily in the search for missing people.

Meanwhile £3.6 million will be invested in cyber hubs in the north and west of the country to add to an existing one in Edinburgh.

These specialist teams will help tackle rising demand for digital and cyber-related crime investigations and work on prevention.

Currently Police Scotland has one helicopter at the Air Support Unit in Glasgow serving the country.

However, weather has a major influence on the aircraft’s ability to fly and this, combined with Scotland’s challenging geography can occasionally mean the aircraft is unable to reach certain parts of the country.

In addition the helicopter operates at significant cost. Police Scotland Air Support Unit (PSASU) proposes to purchase two Unmanned Aerial Systems and associated equipment, basing them in Aberdeen and Inverness.

The overarching aim is to enhance the current air support function and reduce costs.

Additionally, data from mobile devices is increasingly valuable in investigations, so around 40 cyber kiosks will be provided across Scotland for local officers to triage mobile devices quickly to determine if further specialist forensic analysis is needed.

These projects are just some of those which will be delivered over next three years in the first phase of the implementation of Police Scotland's work to change the way it delivers services, following a public consultation on the strategy earlier this year.

A collaborative effort has also begun involving Police Scotland and The University of Glasgow Aerospace Sciences Research Division.

This work will involve 4th year students and will include the design and construction of a bespoke unmanned system for the PSASU to deploy in an operational environment.

The aim of this collaboration is to conduct experimental and developmental work to examine the full potential of unmanned systems in an operational emergency services environment.

The further aim is to develop new sustainable technology, which will in turn lead to a more effective service delivered to the people of Scotland.

A further collaboration involving The University of the West of Scotland is exploring sensor technology including intelligent computer systems and thermal imaging, a key tool utilised in the search for missing people and a variety of other operational tasks.

It is hoped that this work will feed into the operational systems and improve their capabilities.

The aim is to have all training and procurement work completed and for the unmanned systems to be deployed operationally in March 2018.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "Our officers and staff across Scotland do an excellent job protecting the public every day, but the demands on policing have been changing.

“Our Serving a Changing Scotland strategy was developed to address the challenges we now face and to enable the police service to become operationally and financially sustainable.

“Since we consulted on this strategy earlier in the year, we've been working hard to pull a broad range of projects together so we can prioritise the work we need to do.

“This three year plan sets out what those priorities are and how we will go about the first stages of this transformation. It sets out how we will give our officers and staff the tools, resources and support they need to continue to keep people safe and to respond appropriately to the millions of calls for help we receive every year.

“Fundamental to all of this is the wellbeing and development of everyone working in Police Scotland, regardless of rank or role. This will allow all of us to play our part in making these changes happen and take pride in the future of policing in Scotland.”