Police drones have been deployed 187 times in a year in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall – saving at least two lives.

Director of Operations at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Harrold, said Dorset, working with the Devon and Cornwall force, had set up the country’s first police drone unit in the summer of 2017, after trials which began in November 2015.

The unit has a manager and two police constables operating over the three counties – with a further 36 officers now also trained as drone pilots.

He told the Dorset Police and Crime Panel on Tuesday that during the past year drone use had saved thousands of pounds in the cost of hiring the police helicopter and had located two victims of cliff falls whose lives were saved as a result – one in Devon and one in Dorset.

It is estimated that using drones could save the three police forces up to £360,000 a year from incidents when they might otherwise have had to use a police helicopter, which flies on a ‘pay for use’ basis.

Other drone uses have included surveillance and intelligence gathering, road accidents and wildlife crime.

During the year the unit has offered training to members of the public who fly drones and has dealt with 12 reports of drone misuse, issuing three warning notices.

The drone unit has also attracted international attention with calls and visits from Sweden, Holland, Germany, the Falkland Islands, Slovenia, Italy and France with presentations on its operations to other UK forces.