Eye within the Sky: drones at Salisbury Plain – Drones Information


The next time you visit the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA), you may notice some unidentified flying objects. Don’t worry, they’re just our new drones.

Training Safety Marshals (TSMs) recently received ten DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drones, better known as Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), for use in the training area. They can be used in a number of ways to help us in our tasks of creating a β€œsafe place” for the training of the armed forces.

All nine operators currently completed five days of training at the Larkhill surveillance targeting facility and received UAS Class 1b qualification before receiving the drones.

The airspace over SPTA is a very busy MOD air hazard area. This means that a process must be followed before using the drone so that the airspace remains safe for authorized personnel. This requirement means that public use of drones in SPTA airspace is strictly prohibited, even if there may be no aircraft in the area.

Use of the drones

Five of the drones are equipped with a zoom camera and five have a double configuration, which also includes a thermal imager.

Although they have only been in use for a few months, they have already proven themselves. Much of the SPTA is open to the public at certain times as long as the regulations are followed. However, we often come across people who don’t follow the rules. sometimes accidentally and sometimes deliberately.

Our TSMs have used the drones multiple times to take pictures of illegal motorcycle activity. In most cases, the motorcycles disintegrated as soon as the drone was discovered by the drivers. Two vans were confiscated after a drone was used to monitor vans used to transport illegal bicycles to the region. Department of Defense (MDP) and Wiltshire police waited for the drone’s camera to show the drivers returning to the vans before moving in.

A dismounted motorcyclist waves at the camera above him. His motorcycle is behind him, right on the edge of a track. A motorcyclist waves to one of the drones. [Crown Copyright / MOD 2020]

When members of the public are out of bounds, the drones’ speaker is used to let people know that they are in a place they shouldn’t be. The team also used a drone to record evidence of a campsite that was not visible on Sidbury Hill. The drone was able to direct a member of the Department of Defense police to the tent, who then issued two tickets for violations of the COVID 19 rules.

The drone’s footage was clear enough to record the license plates of two 4×4 vehicles illegally driving in the Cross Country Driving Area and to collect evidence.

An aerial view of the MOD police drone speaking to the drivers of two parked 4x4 vehicles. MOD police officers speak to the drivers of two four-wheel drive vehicles. [Crown Copyright / MOD 2020]

A number of drones have been used to monitor authorized personnel, whether TSM or MDP officials, when dealing with members of the public as an additional layer of security. With a range of up to eight kilometers and a maximum speed of 75 km / h, the drones have already proven to be extremely valuable for our team in Salisbury Plain and for deterring and recording illegal activities.

What’s next?

The success of using the drones so far means that we want to make sure that all SPTA employees who are deployed on site are trained in their use. The intention is to extend this to other regions that use them in a similar way and undoubtedly achieve the same results.

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