Police Ground Drones After Reports They Fall Out Of The Sky

UK police have grounded some of their drones because of a fault that means the devices can fall out of the sky,

Police Ground Drones

Recently, a police drone “experienced an in-flight issue” and landed on the roof of a commercial property.

An official warning was subsequently published explaining that some DJI Matrice 200 series drones unexpectedly suffered “complete loss of power during flight”.

DJI said it would review the reports.

The power bug results “in the aircraft falling directly to the ground”, according to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

This occurs even though the battery appears to have charge remaining.

“During a recent operation the drone experienced an in-flight issue and landed on the roof of a commercial business unit.

“The force immediately grounded the model and referred the matter directly to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).”

West Midlands Police said its sole DJI Matrice drone would not fly again unless the CAA and industry experts could prove it posed no further risk.

DJI said in a statement that it was “thoroughly reviewing” reports of power issues with the products in question.

Counter-terrorism use

“There’s thousands of these specific models around the world being used by police and emergency services who favour its ability to operate in windy and rainy conditions,” Andrew McQuillan, from Crowded Space Drones, told 5 Live’s Phil Williams..

Derbyshire Police said: “This is for public safety. However, we have other drones that are not affected by the issue and these are still in use.”

Just five days ago, the force published a press release in which it said it was “pleased to announce” that M200 series drones had been added to its fleet after a year of testing.

Devon and Cornwall Police said: “Following the safety notice from the CAA, we have grounded two drones. This has taken our numbers of available units from around 20 down to 18.”

Heads up

While no reports of injuries or damaged property have yet been received by the CAA, it said the drones should not be flown above people “at any height until further notice”.

The Matrice 200 drones are slightly larger than the most common consumer drones and weigh in at around five or six kilograms, depending on what equipment – such as a camera – is being carried.

On its website, DJI claims the models are “built to endure” and explains that they have17in (43cm) propellers.

The Chinese firm continues to develop drones aimed at professional users – such as the new Mavic 2 Enterprise, which has been designed for uses including search and rescue.

Among its features is a 100-decibel loudspeaker that can be used to broadcast pre-recorded messages.

The Mavic 2 and the Matrice 200 are both designed to appeal to commercial clients experimenting with drones for tasks like surveying and site monitoring, said Tom Morrod, an analyst at IHS Markit.

Problems with the Matrice 200 could cause concern in that sector, he pointed out.

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