Gloucestershire Police has launched a drones unit to give officers a bird's eye view of crime scenes and search areas.

Seven drones will be used cross the county giving officers access to previously inaccessible places and and events.

They were first deployed at the annual cheese rolling competition at Cooper's Hill last Monday where images of the event could be relayed to ground commanders enabling them to respond faster to incidents if they had occurred.

Twelve officers have been trained to pilot the drones and are now accredited by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

They will operate alongside their regular roles, but be available to respond to requests for assistance across Gloucestershire.

These will include searches for missing and vulnerable people, rural crime investigations, aerial photography of crime scenes and road traffic collisions and support for big sporting events.

Chief Inspector Alistair Barby, who has led the implementation of the drones, said: "This is a really exciting time for us. The benefits of drones have been widely documented and we are delighted that our officers now have access to those benefits.

"Our aim is to have a drone available in each of our rural areas, where they will offer the ability to cover much greater areas than officers on foot or vehicle patrol would be able to see; we will also have a drone capability, available to support a wide variety of policing operations .

"We do know that there are some concerns from members of the public about the use of drones, but I would like to reassure them that we have taken all necessary precautions in line national guidance.

"All deployments will be in line with CAA guidance and for policing purposes only.

"The drones will give us greater ability to fight crime, arrest criminals and keep people safe."

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said, “I’m sure that drones will prove to be a useful addition to the Constabulary’s toolkit. There are obvious advantages over a helicopter and I was pleased to see it used at the weekend when a young girl went missing after a nasty incident near Stroud.

“It shows how versatile the equipment is, particularly with regard to rural policing when the Constabulary has to cover such a wide expanse of countryside ”.

PC Ashley Weller, rural crime team leater for Gloucestershire Constabulary, said: "From a rural crime perspective this is a great addition to our crime fighting capability.

"The drones, with their thermal imaging and high resolution zoom lenses, enable is to reach places we could not previously access. Combined with our off road quad bikes and all-terrain buggy there are not many places we cannot get to."