Police to trial cutting-edge drones in Townsville

Published Monday, 21 February, 2022 at 11:20 AM


Premier and Minister for the Olympics
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

Minister for Police and Corrective Services and Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
The Honourable Mark Ryan

The Palaszczuk Government will deliver state-of-the-art drone technology to support police in Townsville as part of a landmark investment announced today.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government would invest in new remotely piloted high standard and advanced mission capable aircraft (RPAS) through a 12-month trial in Townsville.

“The community will be able to feel safer knowing police have these new, state-of-the art resources,” the Premier said.

“This technology has great potential in helping police to keep people safe.

“My government will always invest in new, cutting-edge technology that we believe will help officers to do their jobs.”

The new airborne observation platform will have enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and advancements like artificial intelligence technologies for tracking vehicles and sophisticated thermal imaging cameras for locating lost people.

This additional aerial capability will supplement the fixed wing aircraft and helicopters that already serve the north of the state.

During the last term of government, more than $40 million was invested to deliver two new government helicopters to North Queensland.

There are now three government helicopters in North Queensland supporting emergency responses and policing operations.

These aircraft all form part of the broader government air fleet operated by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and include new POLAIR helicopters based in southeast Queensland – also announced by the government today.

Police advise that resources for dedicated police helicopters in Townsville and Cairns are better invested in other technologies given the smaller populated areas in regional Queensland and restricted airspace near the RAAF base in Townsville.

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper commended Townsville police for embracing the latest technologies.

“I’ve always said our police are world class and here is yet another example of Townsville police demonstrating their willingness to look for new and innovative ways to support community safety.”

Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said the government would always back police with the latest and best resources.

“The government is making the biggest investment in policing in more than three decades to deliver more than 2,000 extra personnel, and today’s announcement demonstrates the government is also backing police with the latest technology.”

Member for Mundingburra Les Walker said the trial of the specialised capability was very exciting.

“Technology has transformed our lives and will continue to do so, so I congratulate Townsville police for looking to adapt new technologies to provide enhanced levels of support to community safety.”

Townsville-based Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Wheeler welcomed the announcement which he said was another example of the Queensland Police Service continually looking for better ways of supporting community safety.

“Rapid technological progress is being made in many spheres of our daily lives, and this is another example of how technology can be adapted to deliver better outcomes.

“The QPS has been successfully using RPAS operationally for many years in specialist units.

“But this new high standard and advanced mission capable aircraft takes it to another level and will provide Townsville police with enhanced capabilities including higher quality tools and image analytics.

“It means that officers on the ground will receive a live feed of the images being recorded on the new aerial platform.

“It’s important to remember though that aircraft don’t make arrests.

“The benefit of this technology is how it may be able to assist police on the ground.”

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said she was very pleased with the announcement as it added to the range of aviation support available to police and other emergency services in North Queensland.

“I am very pleased that we will now have an even wider range of capability to provide to all our police, emergency services and other government partners in the North. 

“Not only will we have this support for law enforcement it will assist our colleagues in organisations like the SES and marine rescue in our work keeping the community safe.”

Police acting Chief Superintendent Marcus Hill who has portfolio responsibility for the government air fleet, QGAir, said, “with the QGAir fixed wing aircraft currently providing services right across North Queensland, the three QGAir helicopters and now these large RPAS we will have a range of capability that will be available to meet a very broad range of operational circumstances.”

Police Minister Mark Ryan congratulated the Townsville police for their innovative approach to providing enhanced service to the community.

“What we will see in Townsville with this new set of “eyes in the sky” is a peek into what the future may look like.

“Once again this is the Queensland Police Service looking to always be at the cutting edge and be early-adopters of the latest technologies that may assist their efforts to support community safety.”

The use of RPAS in Australia is strictly regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

The QPS is the holder of a Remote Operators Certificate and all RPAS pilots have a Remote Pilot Licence and receive regular training and testing from the QPS Chief Remote Pilot.


Media contact:

Jack Harbour (Premier’s office) 0419 620 447

Phil Willmington (Minister’s office) 0411 535 180