WAPU DroneTech 051
BY Jessica Cuthbert 
Newly rolled out aircraft assets have been a welcomed support to police officers across the State.
The WA Police Force’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Expansion Project has been a 12-month rollout, training officers in each regional district and selected specialist units to become fully qualified Police Remote Pilots.
The officers selected to undergo training were required to complete the same theory and practical training under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) standards.
The new RPAS will, and already have, significantly increased air support capability in a wide range of situations, including emergency response to land and marine search operations, major crash evidence mapping and top cover for officers in the field.
Project Manager Senior Sergeant Dean Vivarelli said the new assets would not replace traditional aircraft deployments with Police Air Wing resources still available in emergencies.
“These provide additional options for immediate deployment and will complement other aircraft resources used in a variety of situations,” he said.
“This technology isn’t replacing what we currently have, it’s building on and supporting what we do have while also bringing new technology and capabilities to officers.”
Sen. Sgt Vivarelli said the project was an important merge of two cultures, the policing culture where officers manage emergencies as they have been taught to do so and aviation policing which is highly regulated.
“These RPAS are no different to any other aircrafts. Although unmanned they still fall under CASA regulations so if they go down in the field there is the same procedure and investigation as there would be if it were a helicopter or plane,” he said.
Chief Remote Pilot Paul Wimsett played a crucial role in the rollout of the program and the training of the 72 Police Remote Pilots across the State.
“My role was to merge policing experience and aviation and I would say it’s been an incredibly successful project so far. The mesh of aviation and policing is a mould that not every police officer would fit, so we made sure to be mindful of that during the selection process.”
Chief Remote Pilot Wimsett said the technology is a game changer for the WA Police Force, adding the benefits and successes that were already being achieved were exceptional.
“The program was originally planned for the training of 60 pilots, however already 72 police officers have been trained highlighting the success of the project. It has been delivered well under budget and well above the scope of what was
expected,” he said. 
He told Police News the training for each officer was completed within a few weeks.
“There’s the CASA initial training and then Police Air Wing deliver an aviation package with the policing aspect,” he said.
“We then leave our team out in the districts to train them in the field. When the time comes where a situation unfolds, as much as these officers have their policing hat on, they also have their aviation hat on.”
The use of the RPAS will make police operations more efficient, effective and safer for police officers and has already been utilised during a situation involving the Tactical Response Group.
Police Air Wing helicopters were deployed to patrol overhead as a situation unfolded. However, as the task progressed it was clear it would be long time for the aircraft to be in the air, making it an expensive cost, so the RPAS was used.
“In this case we got the RPAS involved and for the 14 hours officers were on the scene they had an aircraft airborne for 12 and a half hours, all while maintaining situational awareness and command and control,” Sen. Sgt Vivarelli said.
“There are also the benefits of downloading the footage and a live feed to the major incident command centre and forward command posts. From the cost to the effectiveness, in this situation the RPAS was the ideal choice.”
The aircrafts also have a function to complete efficient mapping of serious or fatal crash scenes, reducing the time of compiling evidence from days to just minutes.
“It enhances the capabilities we have and we are still only scratching the surface,” Sen. Sgt Vivarelli said.
“Essentially this rollout has decentralised Police Air Wing by putting air wing assets in all the regions where they can be just as effective and if not more effective in certain situations.
“Once the officers are trained, they use their judgement in how and when they want to use the asset. That’s completely up to them.”
WAPU DroneTech 101
Project Maintenance Controller Constable Russell King from Police Air Wing told Police News he overlooks the maintenance of every RPAS.
He said they are fitted with visual lights, speakers, a 4K wide lens camera with a 200 x digital optical zoom, thermal sensor and in some cases a spotlight.
Already in the regions and especially along the coastline, the RPAS has proved efficient in remote inland landscapes in search and rescue operations.
They can be deployed from the ground instantly, stay up in flight mode for hours, are highly visible and fitted with flashing lights and sirens. They are also capable of broadcasting a message to range up to one km.
“We were conducting a land search in Yallingup last year where we actually recorded a voice message from a mother whose son was lost in the bush. She recorded a message for her little boy to come out of hiding and not fear the lights and people searching for him,” Constable King said.
“The RPAS was in the air within minutes, playing the broadcast of mum’s voice with the flashing lights, so we had mum say: ‘Jimmy if you look up and see the flashing lights, don’t be scared follow the lights.’
“The old way of doing that took a while to record the message and send it out but using this new technology it was done within minutes and in the air broadcasting.”
Ledge Beach MARSAR
Using a RPAS in a marine search. WA Police 
Four officers from the Great Southern District were the first from regional WA to be trained.
In April, officers in Albany conducted an emergency land and marine search for a missing man off the coast. In conjunction with the Police Air Wing, Marine and SES personnel and a helicopter, the RPAS were deployed.
Acting Superintendent Glenn Spencer from GSD said the new technology plays a crucial role in many local emergencies.
He said the aircrafts have already been deployed for proactive intelligence gathering and assistance in marine and land searches, both with successful outcomes.
“We have had success locating drug crops in remote bush land, searched parts of the coast that was too dangerous for boats to get close to and have located people during these searches,” he said.
“One particularly good outcome was a recent land search for a juvenile person at risk, who had taken a kitchen knife and ran off into bushland threatening self-harm.
“The bushland was several hundred acres in size and historically this would have been an intensive resource search. However, with only two police vehicles and four officers, one of whom was an RPAS pilot, the RPAS was deployed and with the thermal imaging infrared capability, the person was identified within a very short space of time.”
He said without the RPAS, a full-scale land search may have taken hours and used significantly more resources.
“In this case the whole job was over in less than an hour. Anything which reduces the risks to our people and contributes to such successful outcomes in such a short time frame has to be a good thing,” he said. 
When rolling out projects like this, two big factors are always considered. How do you improve the response to the community and how do you improve officer safety on the ground?
Sen. Sgt Vivarelli said the project was excelling in officer productivity, resource management and successful outcomes.
“The vision for this project was to create better technology and make that technology available wider throughout the agency and that is exactly what has been done. All while having that large focus on officer and community safety,” he said
WAPU Bunbury-Australind Branch Official Sergeant Gareth Reed, who is a trained Police Remote Pilot, said the RPAS provided a huge boost to his district’s capability to respond in an immediate way when an emergency or serious incident occurs.
“Whilst not replacing traditional aerial services, it provides an additional capacity to the response. We can be planning the job on the way to the scene and arranging approval to fly within a very short timeframe,” he said.
“We have found them to be highly beneficial in marine and land search operations, drug and intelligence operations, surveillance, providing top cover for officers when entering higher risk premises or areas, crash and crime scene photography,
thermal imagery, photography and videography and producing positive media from public engagement events.”
Sergeant Reed said it has been pleasing to see the WA Police Force adapting new technologies to improve officer productivity and safety.
“The RPAS project is really only limited by CASA statute and the imagination. It is literally revolutionising modern day policing in terms of how we go about our business and amplifying officer safety,” he said.
“The feedback we are given from Members on the frontline and on the ground is very positive. It is reassuring for them knowing we can do very simple things like provide top cover for them upon entry to a premise when executing a warrant.
“Every day we are sharing stories of successful missions being flown around the State. Some of the photographic court products being produced by Major Crash and Forensics are highly engaging and vastly simplifies understanding of crime and crash scenes for juries and judicial officials alike – a picture tells a thousand words.”
WAPU Acting President Mick Kelly said the rollout was a welcomed addition for our Members on the frontline to assist with response to emergencies and management of critical incidents.
“This new technology is a fantastic asset for our Members and those in regional areas who now have access to aircraft support when responding to tasks, making it safer for police and the
community” he said.
“The Union is always happy to see the advancement of technology that is designed to improve our Members’ safety and we look forward to seeing how they are used across the State.”
The rollout recently concluded with 72 pilots now trained and 40 drones deployed around the State, including 14 in regional WA.