Posted: Thu 8th Jun 2023

North Wales Police drone plummets from sky during suspect hunt, prompting safety review

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 8th, 2023

Battery problems were the likely cause of a police drone plummeting from the sky during a suspect search in a north Wales city centre, a safety report has found. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

An unmanned aerial vehicle was being used during a North Wales Police operation near Bangor train station when it suddenly fell from the sky without warning. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The incident sparked an investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which has now published its findings in a report. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It shows the drone, a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, was being used to locate suspects near the station’s car park and an old industrial site when its motors stopped, and it fell vertically, striking the roof of an abandoned building. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The impact caused the drone’s battery to detach, and it was discovered around 1.3 metres from the aircraft. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

According to the AAIB, the incident on August 7, 2022 could have been caused by either the device’s battery not being properly secured before take-off or wear from repeated use. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The drone, which was damaged beyond repair, had been flying for approximately six minutes before the signal and video feed on the controller screen were lost. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The pilot, a 37-year-old officer with seven hours of flying experience, was reported to have rushed to deploy the drone due to the urgency of the operation. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

While he said he checked the battery and the aircraft before take-off, it is believed the quick set-up might have led to the battery not being properly attached. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The manufacturer of the drone, DJI, said the battery, which had been used for about three years, had likely reached the end of its lifecycle. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Their analysis found there had been a sudden change in battery voltage before the flight recording ended. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

They added that if the battery was properly handled according to guidelines, the possibility of abnormal battery performance was very low. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

As a result of the incident, North Wales Police has taken safety action to remind officers of the importance of carrying out thorough pre-flight checks on drones and routine maintenance of batteries. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The force has also shared the findings of the AAIB report with all its drone pilots and said it planned to reinforce the briefing of observers. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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