Where Thames Valley police spying in children with a drone? – UPDATED 16/12/2021

A recent article has been published where a Thames Valley Police drone was discovered in a children’s playground.

UPDATE 16/12/2021: A press release has been issued by Thames Valley police here

The accident report states the ‘pilot’ had only 3 hours of experience, and only 1 hour of them was ‘on type’ (the drone type in the accident).   Onle 1.5 hours in the previous 3 months.

(We have used strikethrough font to correct the factual errors in our report)

Drone technology has advanced over the years. Off the shelf, drones line the DJI Mini 2 can be purchased for under £400 and even these have technology that makes this story smells of BS.

The police drones are also DJI drones and far more advanced than the DJI Mini 2, however, the mini 2 would struggle to do what this officer claims his (likely) £10,000+ drone did.

CORRECTION – The police drone was a Parrot Anafi with a value of £7,800

If a Mini 2 drone loses connection,

  • It will stop moving and hover at the last location that it had a connection.
  • Will ‘land’ at that location when the battery depletes.
  • Will fly in 30mph+ winds and will not drift, even in such winds.

So, given the technology in a £400 DJI Mini 2Drone, how is it possible the police drone ‘happens’ to find its way into a children’s playground?  Is it possible the operator was watching the children?

After all, if it ‘lost connection’ and had no home point set, it would simply HOVER at its last position before it lost connection.  It would wait there until it depleted its battery then land where it was last located.

The report says

It had been up in the air less than four minutes when the Thames Valley Police officer lost sight of it due to ‘mist in the area’ and the drone began to drift in the wind.

“A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found the pilot had tried to active the Return to Home function, but had failed to set a location for the drone to return to before takeoff.”

Only 4 minutes in and the following unlikely events all happened at the same time;

  • the pilot lost VLOS (Visual Line of Sight),
  • the drone started to ‘drift’
  • the connection to the drone was lost
  • the drone landed ‘safely’ in a children’s playground (it seemingly didn’t crash)

The ITV news report says

“The drone was found undamaged the next day in a playground approximately 5 km north of the takeoff point.”

Indicating the landing was more likely than not a controlled landing. (not crashed from an out of control drifting drone).

The news report also revealed;

“Investigators also found the pilot had not completed the police force’s own requirements in order to carry out the drone operation.”

Which raise lots more questions in itself.

Let’s hope this is thoroughly investigated and any media recorded by the drone is analysed and not ‘destroyed’.

We asked Thames Valle police for a statement.  They responded saying;

Chief Inspector Ade Hall of Thames Valley Police’s Joint Operations Unit, said:

“Following an incident involving a Thames Valley Police drone on 3 April in Henley-on-Thames, the force referred the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority and the Air Accident Investigation Board and also conducted an internal review.

“The drone had been deployed to reports of an unlicensed music event in order to identify its exact location and provide situational awareness for commanders.

“Following the incident, individual and organisational learning was identified and these have now been addressed.

“The drone was returned to the manufacturers for technical examination and no faults were identified.

“The drone, which is a Parrot Anafi USA drone, weighing 500 grams, cost approximately £7,500.

“It is important to stress that there was no damage to the drone or to the equipment installed on the drone, and is now back in use.”

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