A NORTH-EAST police force spent nearly £1,500 on a drone, it emerged yesterday.

Long waiting times and increasing costs of helicopters have led to police investing in drones instead, a watchdog found.

Around two-thirds of forces in England and Wales own or have access to unmanned aircraft and only six are not considering using them, according to a report.

The amount spent varies hugely between forces, with Surrey Police and Sussex Police jointly spending £300,000 on five drones – while Durham Constabulary bought one for £1,450.

A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services into the National Police Air Service (NPAS) has raised concerns about the piecemeal approach to unmanned aircraft.

Guidance for police on how and when to use drones was “patchy at best” and has led to “confusion” about their use, it added.

“While most forces have purchased drones, none has rigorously evaluated their use and, as a result, the police service has not developed a common view on their relative merit,” the report said.