Aircraft provide vital support for police ground operations and is one of a number of key assets available to the police. In hunts for suspects or missing persons they can clear large areas that would otherwise tie up many officers for many hours in prolonged searches, as well as checking inaccessible or dangerous areas (eg. roofs), including through use of infra red detection.
In public order situations they provide - literally - an overview enabling commanders to make the most effective deployments and respond quickly to emerging problems.
The National Police Air Service (NPAS) is a nationally managed, regionally organised service to deliver vital air support to forces locally. It operates under a National Collaboration Agreement covering all the police areas in England and Wales.
The focus of NPAS is to deliver a more cost effective service, balancing the need to save money in a challenging economic environment against the need to ensure the police service has a quickly deployable asset that can be used to tackle crime and protect the public.