Devon and Cornwall Police are now using drones to help detect driving offences on high harm routes throughout the region as part of a pioneering new project.

The force’s drone unit is linking with the roads policing team, road casualty reduction officers and speed detection officers to target unsafe or irresponsible driving and riding in our area. 

The operation was launched last week as part of National Motorcycle Safety Week and hopes to apply a particular focus on motorcyclists after a spate of collisions last year which caused the serious injury or death of more than 200 riders.

Drones will be used to help calculate the vehicle speed live, using fixed points on the highway. Devices will also record live video of all incidents, meaning any dangerous or inappropriate driving will be documented on camera.

Drones being used to catch speeding vehicles
(Devon and Cornwall Police)

Details of vehicles breaking the law will be relayed to officers on the ground who will subsequently be able to check the MOT, tax and insurance status.

Chief Inspector Ben Asprey, Head of Roads Policing at Devon & Cornwall Police and also part of the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership’s motorcycle task group said: Sadly last year was a terrible year for serious and fatal collisions involving motorcyclists. In 2022, 16 motorcyclists were killed on Devon and Cornwall’s roads – the highest figure in the past five years. A further 187 were also left seriously injured.

“Despite motorcyclists making up less than 1% of overall traffic, they account for roughly a third of all serious and fatal collisions in our area. But it’s important to remember that these aren’t just numbers, these are people’s loved ones – parents, sons, daughters, friends and partners – and we are determined to drive those numbers down.

“Speed and inappropriate riding have been major contributory factors in the motorcycle collisions we have attended. Travelling too fast gives you less time to react and dramatically increases their risk of being fatally or seriously injured. Many of these serious collisions have not involved any other road users, meaning inappropriate riding and motorcyclist error is also a major factor.

“Motorcyclists are already a vulnerable road user group, not least because they have considerably less protection than drivers of cars or other vehicles. Preventing any further unnecessary loss of life is our top priority.”

Inspector Colin Harper of Devon & Cornwall Police’s Drone team explained why the use of drones is a game-changer in this project.

Insp Harper said: “This innovative use of drones will give us early warning of any offences and allow us to be far more targeted in our approach on the ground.

“We will be deploying this technology on roads where we know motorbikes are travelling too fast, and also around dates and locations where motorcycle events are scheduled to take place.

“This technology can and will be used to help detect speeding and dangerous driving in all vehicles on our roads. At present, our focus is on motorcyclists who are at highest-risk according to our data, particularly at this time of year when more riders will be venturing out again after the winter.”