£13,000 police drone lost after crashing into River Mersey
An aerial drone hailed by police as the latest tool in the fight against crime was declared lost after crashing into the River Mersey.The craft, which was launched in Merseyside four years ago in a hail of publicity, now apparently lies at the bottom of the river.
Because of force budget cuts, senior officers have also decided to consign any plan to replace it to the depths of the ocean.
Police lost control of the £13,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) while operating it from the Riversdale Police Social Club, in Aigburth, on a "routine training exercise".
Bosses spoke to the red-faced officers after the incident.
The drone went AWOL on a Wednesday afternoon at the club, which is used for police functions and celebrations.
The Mersey is a mere 500 yards from the force's playing field, close to Liverpool Cricket Club.
The drone was high above the Aigburth club when police said it suddenly lost battery power.
The UAV tried to perform a safety landing in adverse weather conditions, but the craft - which was a long distance from those operating it at the time - crashed into the Mersey.
A search was carried out, but the drone was given up lost.
The force was compensated by insurers for its £13,000 value but senior officers decided against replacing it due to the financial climate.
A police spokesman said: "Initially the force identified the potential benefits of a UAV within operational policing.
"But during its use officers recognised certain technical and operational issues, including staff training costs and the inability to use it in all weather conditions.
"The use of the UAV by officers requires a considerable amount of training, skill and practice.
"Officers cannot operate the UAV without first completing an intensive training course."
Merseyside was the first force in the UK to use a drone to carry CCTV cameras to monitor trouble hotspots and film crowds.
Weighing the same as a bag of sugar, the "spy in the sky" could land almost anywhere, allowing police to scan the most remote of locations.
Officers said it would help the force's antisocial behaviour team and it was hoped it would prove effective monitoring large-scale events, traffic congestion and even help in firearm operations.
But it had a somewhat chequered history during its four years in use. In February last year, the drone celebrated its first arrest, helping to locate a suspected car thief who escaped from a car following a police chase in Litherland.
Its thermal technology was integral in finding the man hiding by a canal in thick fog. But later that month, police fell foul of the law by using their aerial device without an appropriate licence.
The drone was subsequently taken out of service temporarily while the correct licence was obtained.
The Civil Aviation Authority, which launched an investigation, took no further action and an appropriate certificate was subsequently granted.
A Merseyside police spokesman added: "Full aerial cover and support is provided by the North West Air Operations Group. "We remain committed to providing the best policing service possible to the people of Merseyside and will always use all the resources available to us in order to tackle crime."