Kevin Taylor is the Chief Pilot of the Lincolnshire Police Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) Unit. He has worked as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) flight instructor/assessor, training staff at all levels, from beginners to advanced remote pilots. He specialises in the training of military and emergency services personnel. He has himself flown both manned and unmanned aircraft and is qualified to fly both aeroplanes and helicopters. He has put in more than 1500 flying hours in more than twenty aircraft types. He acts as test pilot for the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA) and the Light Aircraft Association (LAA). This involves testing new lightly manned aircraft. Kevin himself owns a light sport aircraft and flies regularly.
Kev began his career as a radar engineer in the Royal Air Force, then joined the Special Constabulary in 2003. He serves as a Special Sergeant in the Lincolnshire Police RPAS Unit. He has overall responsibility for the safe delivery of RPAS operations, including all aspects of training and safety standards. He is experienced in all the operational areas of police RPASs and has carried out hundreds of live deployments in Search & Rescue, Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear incidents and Offender and Event Crowd Dynamics. He is also experienced in Beyond Visual Line Of Sight flights. He has received multiple commendations for his operational RPAS flying. He has also worked with the UK defence industry to develop autonomous RPASs. He has pioneered police use of RPASs in relation to criminal activities.
I asked Kev to contribute to my series of blog posts to celebrate CRM because Lincolnshire Police have very kindly been following this blog for several years. They also helped to influence the plot for Chasing Hares.
Q: Do police drone pilots train from scratch or have they already been flying drones as a pastime?
A: In Lincolnshire Police, drone pilots are police constables who work mainly as responders and attend a vast array of incidents. If an incident can benefit from the use of a drone, a drone officer will be deployed to assist. A drone is just one of numerous tools available in a police officer’s kit bag and drone flying should be described as a skill, rather than a role. In some ways, it’s like carrying a taser: the training has some similarities. The initial training course consists of five days’ training followed by a practical test which the trainee must pass. Once an officer is trained, s/he must pass an annual requalification test. If prospective drone pilots are already interested in drones before they train, it is useful, but not essential.
Q: What, very briefly, is the history of police drone use in the county? How many officers are involved and how has this field of policing been expanded in Lincolnshire?
A: Lincolnshire Police started its drone journey in March 2017. The first operational flight took place in September of that year. On average there are now 350-400 deployments per year. The target is to have five officers at each of the four main bases: Lincoln, Boston, Grantham and Skegness. Currently there are twelve officers and six more in training.
Q: Would you explain the particular value of drones for police work in a place like Lincolnshire or, indeed, anywhere.
A: Lincolnshire has the perfect landscape for drones. In terms of geographic area the force is one of the largest in England and Wales, covering 2,284 square miles. The population of this area is 736,700. Policing such a large area presents challenges: Lincolnshire has vast areas of open countryside and, as such areas are difficult to search on foot, effective air support is vital. Drones can now play a pivotal role in addressing this challenge. The running cost of a drone is negligible when compared to the other options available, such as crewed helicopters. Drones are also used to manage large events such as Christmas markets and can assist with crowd dynamics, acting as an extension to the CCTV camera network.
Q: What incidents stick out in your mind as memorable examples of success? (Not just nabbing the villain, though that is very interesting, of course; perhaps the successful rescue of someone vulnerable or the way in which a traffic incident has been helped by drones.)
A: There have been many incidents that have resulted in a positive outcome for the whole team. We are not allowed to discuss one of the most unusual ones, owing to reporting restrictions, which is a real shame. All drone pilots will have a personal set of memories of occasions that got their adrenaline pumping; one of my own was using the drone to discover an unconscious male in a ditch following a road traffic collision. It was in early 2018; his was among the first lives to have been reported as saved by a police drone in the UK and this incident alone demonstrates that the investment in drones by Lincolnshire Police was worthwhile.
Q: What do you find particularly frustrating in your line of work?
A: When we first launched the drones initiative there was some scepticism. There was criticism that drones were just glorified toys. However, the clear and powerful images produced by the drones once they became operational soon converted the sceptics to supporters. There aren’t too many frustrations, but it may not be a surprise to hear that if I had better funding I could achieve so much more. That said, the Chief Officer Team has been very supportive of drones and can see they provide value for money. The results speak for themselves, although we can’t always put a financial value on all that we do.
Q: Do you read crime fiction? Would be your advice to a writer like me to up her game in presenting police work?
A: I’m always on the go, so sitting down and reading a book is something I don’t have much time for. I would say that policing is moving with the times and that technology plays a large part in the way criminals operate today, so the police need to use it, too, to keep up. I guess a crime writer would benefit from understanding the technology and tools at the disposal of a current, modern-day police force. Drones constitute just one small part of contemporary technology that benefits the police and public, not only in Lincolnshire, but worldwide. Besides operating drones, we play a considerable role in education and enforcement. Drones technology is constantly evolving and the regulations have also evolved quickly. Lincolnshire is a very RAF-centric county, with a busy airspace, and we contribute to the effort to ensure that all airspace users can share the airspace safely. In July, we’ll be inviting the public to the Lincolnshire Police HQ to learn more about how to fly drones safely and to understand a little more about how we use them.
All pictures © Kevin Taylor
8 thoughts on “A privilege, indeed, to fly with Kevin Taylor, Chief Pilot, Lincolnshire Police Drones”
I have very mixed feelings about drones myself, but it’s fascinating to read about how useful they can be to police work. Writing crime fiction requires a lot of modern technological knowledge these days, doesn’t it? There is so much research to do first. Thank you for another interesting post, Christina!
I began with next to no knowledge about drones and their uses, Val, but I now am beginning to realise just how valuable they can be in the right hands.
One issue I ran into is the public perception of drones; when flying one locally and legally there was a torrent of comments from mothers worried about drones ‘spying on their children in the park’… it took a sensible person among them to point out that the kids were in a public space, on public view. Add to that drones are a fixed camera vehicle, flown legally people (and especially children) are ant-like figures, which is a great shame. I’ve personally used one to survey a failing chimney structure, that would have involved much scaffolding to check out and make safe. As Kevin knows, the answer is education, but a few idiots have spoiled it for responsible folk, and now the regulation is far more onerous than it needed to be.
Thank you for dropping by to comment! It’s a sad fact that abuse by a minority of just about any permitted activity has terrible consequences for the law-abiding many, increasing restrictions and regulations. You’re right too about the prejudice, so common these days in all sorts of ways, that frequently springs from ignorance. Experts, especially in the police force, do much to improve perceptions and manage often complex practicalities for everyone’s benefit. Kev in particular strikes me as a wonderful ambassador for this particular activity.
I gather a number of controlled airspace busts are made by aircraft. I recall a pretty serious one in Southampton one year… I gather the pilot was attending a party on the Isle of Wight. Can these drones be used to track errant pilots who stray into controlled airspace? Kind regards… BJ
I’m certainly not qualified to comment on this, but maybe Kev will notice your contribution and provide some professional insight.
John is poking fun at him, one year Kevin Taylor was flying down to a microlight gathering on the Isle Of Wight, and accidentally strayed into Southampton’s Airspace Zone; we ribbed him mercilessly about it and unusually, Kev had a major sense of humour failure! Kev T is a great guy and has given much of his time to serving and helping others (he once plonked £150 in my hand when I forgot my wallet one year at a fly-in), so it is good to see him getting the recognition he deserves
Another Kev! I’m impressed both that you provided the context and that you openly credit Kev Taylor with what he deserves! We all remember accidentally infringing regulations. My husband, in a routine police traffic stop, could not provide his documentation and was asked to take them to his local station. When he did, he was just handing them over when the desk sergeant said, “These are my papers!” Coincidentally, he had the same name exactly! At the same moment, my husband noticed that his MOT had just expired. He owned up immediately and the sergeant laughed and suggested that he might rectify it immediately. It was a good case of an even-handed response to a namesake! 😉
I certainly wasn’t qualified to comment on that one!!!!