Drones are set to be used as first responders to police emergencies in a trial in Norfolk next year.

Further tests will also take place in Thames Valley Police and Hampshire.

The devices would be stationed on buildings and operated remotely to be sent to scenes first to give police early information if testing is successful.

Initial trials, under a scheme called Project Eagle X, will take place in Norfolk which has limited access to the helicopters flown by the National Police Air Service because they are stationed so far away.

Police in England and Wales are working with officers in the US because similar trials have taken place in San Diego.

Belgium and the Netherlands are also trialling drones as first responders (DFR) devices.

Neil Sexton, who advises the National Police Chiefs’ Council on the use of drones, said: “DFR is a drone that sits autonomously on a roof somewhere in a city and it’s in a box, it’s protected.

“From a control station that receives a 999 call it can be launched completely remotely, flying overhead an incident to gain situational awareness that will be fed back not just to that control station or control room, but also to the first responders who are about to arrive on the ground.”

It’s hoped that the drone would give more accurate information on the potential scale of an incident than a potentially shocked member of the public who has called 999.

The aim is also to get the drone to the scene faster than a helicopter.

“The ability to get a remote aircraft overhead an incident that is still developing to gain a better situational awareness [is] much improved over phone calls from members of the public who are under stress,” Mr Sexton said.

“Sitting overhead, it can tell you straight away whether you’re talking about a major road traffic collision that requires three fire engines and four ambulances, or whether it’s a minor prang and someone’s getting overexcited.”

About 400 drones are currently used by police forces in England and Wales and they cannot be flown out of the operator’s line of sight.

However, plans are in place to change these rules with initial trials taking place in areas with closed-off airspace next year.

Forces are also planning much wider use of retrospective facial recognition technology with chiefs proposing to double its use by May.

News Shopper: Police in England and Wales and officers in the US are working together as similar trials have taken place in San DiegoPolice in England and Wales and officers in the US are working together as similar trials have taken place in San Diego (Image: Canva)

The biometric software is hailed as significant a step forward for policing as DNA analysis and it’s used to compare images from sources such as CCTV with forces’ databases of custody shots.

The Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest police force, has already said it will use the software to catch prolific shoplifters caught on CCTV.

South Wales Police, one of the forces to spearhead use of live and retrospective facial recognition, is also piloting software that can be used by officers on their mobile phones.

Currently, around 50 officers can access an app on their phones that allows them to take a photo of a suspect and compare it to the force’s mugshot database.

The system could be rolled out across England and Wales if the test is successful.