Flight against crime: police show off new ‘nightingale drone’

Police unveil the 'Nightingale' drone Photo: Rogier Bos
Police unveil the ‘Nightingale’ drone  Photo: Rogier Bos

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a police drone, called the Nightingale. Dutch police unveiled their latest weapon in the fight against crime at the Amsterdam Drone Week fair in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

‘Drones are used at traffic accidents, crime scenes – in 2D and 3D – and if needed at events, festivals and demonstrations where there is a need for surveillance,’ said Remco Aagtjes, project lead and operational specialist at the Dutch police.

Although drones have been used by the force for several years, including at events such as football matches, the new drone is intended to fly further and potentially also without police being directly visible.

It has a range of some 100km, can fly for an hour, and is currently being tested in order to be operational next year. Limiting factors, the police said in a diagram at a demonstration stand, were ‘developing the legal aspect’ as well as ‘ethical and societal acceptance.’

Aagtjes, who works in the eastern Netherlands, said that under the current flight laws, police cannot use drones beyond their visual line of sight (BVLOS), although these may be revised. ‘At this moment, it isn’t allowed in the Netherlands,’ he said. ‘We would like to experiment with it.’

The force sees increasing use for drones in everything from missing persons searches – using technology that can see whether ground has recently been disturbed – to scans by the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority to locate ‘illegally buried cattle’ that might save a farmer the costs of proper disposal but present environmental risks.

Amsterdam Drone Week includes presentations on drone taxi services in development in Paris and Japan, and everything from fire extinguishing drones to companies that want to use them to deliver your coffee. It runs from March 21 to 23 in the Amsterdam Rai conference centre.

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