A review of police helicopter costs is expected in the coming weeks.

Dorset Police says the success of its own drone unit, the first in the country, may have resulted in savings estimated at £170,000.

But at the same time the force is paying fixed fees for the shared helicopter and additional fees each time it is used.

Chief Constable James Vaughan believes that because the police helicopter is based locally, at Hurn, there is a ‘proximity’ factor tempting the force to use it, or to call it in for a job when it is on the way back from a mission out of the county.

He said he would be looking at the costs in detail after a question from police and crime panel member Iain McVie at Thursday’s budget meeting in Dorchester.

“You are committed to over a quarter of a million pounds for the helicopter, but are you getting less for more because you are using the drones more,” he said.

Said Mr Vaughan: “We’re lucky that the helicopter is at Hurn and can get anywhere in the county quicker…but there is a chance that because it’s local we might use it more… there is some proximity pressure and we think we might be able to replace some helicopter activity with drones which are cheaper.”

The panel heard that the force drone unit, which was formed in May 2017, was deployed 182 times in the last financial year and by the end of next month is likely to exceed 300 uses in the current year. In July alone the unit saw 52 deployments, believed to be the highest in the country.

Each deployment costs at least one-third less than using the National Police Air Service.