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The Police Aviation Conference (PAvCon) is an annual event which can trace its origins back to events of a similar name that were sponsored by the Shephard Group in London in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Now, from 2009 onwards, the event is sponsored by Police Aviation Research who also publish the monthly, on line magazine, 'Police Aviation News'. The annual PAvCon has also become a European event which has returned to the UK, to Doncaster, for the first time since 2009 when it was in London. In the intervening years is has made its mark in the Czech Republic, in Spain, in Germany (twice), in Austria, in Belgium and in the Netherlands. But don't be fooled by the title! Both PAvCon and Police Aviation News (PAN) cover a whole range of topics that involve aircraft, including small unmanned aircraft (drones) in public service. The UK Civil Air Patrol is a regular attendee at PAvCon and often features in PAN.

This year PAvCon attracted visitors from as far afield as Australia and many other countries in between. Guest speakers came from the USA, from Canada, from Belgium, from the Netherlands and from Spain, as well as the 'home grown' speakers from the UK. The speakers from the UK included several from the National Police Air Service (NPAS) of England and Wales. However, with very little experience in the use of drones it's probably fair to say that the NPAS speaker was eclipsed by speakers from Canada, from Belgium and by Paul Trimble of the Civil Air Patrol in the UK. Hopefully, the experience and the lesson shared by these 'subject experts' will by taken on board by the police and the fire & rescue services in the UK. Another UK speaker was Peter Roberts of 'The Centre for Search Research' who provided an insight into the recent (May 2017) 'Exercise Northumberland - O'Donnell Revisited' ahead of the final report. The CAP provided 4 aircraft, including a drone, for this important piece of research into the use of manned and unmanned aircraft, together with ground search parties, looking for missing persons.

The change in venue from Doncaster Airport, where the Vulcan Heritage Museum was the original location, to The Best Western Mount Pleasant Hotel, next door to the airfield, provided many challenges for the event organisers, Principal, Bryn Elliott, Chairman, Gareth Davies and their team. Nevertheless, although space was tight, PAvCon maintained its reputation as a world leader with exhibitions and presentations that are second to none. In the case of the Civil Air Patrol the change from airfield to hotel provided an unexpected opportunity to demonstrate the operational flexibility of the autogyro - if you can't land it, then trail it! Although NPAS were able to fly across the fence from their brand new base at Doncaster Airport, complete with a new hangar, to land their EC135 T2 helicopter in the field adjacent to the hotel, the autogyro, complete with CAP badges, was on display inside the hotel, on a patio next to the restaurant!

The CAP has several autogyros in its fleet of aircraft in private ownership and, at one time, the CAP had autogyros in England, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. The autogyro on display at PAvCon was the AutoGyro Cavalon which was brought to the event by CAP member, Jim Hughes. As an autogyro instructor Jim flies his own autogyro, an MT Sport, but he's also the Operations Manager at RotorSport UK. The Cavalon, now certified for commercial operations, was on loan to the CAP who, in conjunction with RotorSport and L3 Wescam are exploring the concept of adding an electro-optical camera turret, complete with thermal imager to the autogyro. This will improve the autogyro's capability, by an order of magnitude, as a cost effective aircraft for aerial reconnaissance, aerial survey and air to ground photography. The EO camera turret on display at PAvCon was the new L3 Wescam MX-8. The CAP team that attended PAvCon also included Ian Povey, a member of the CAP and also a commercial drone operator who is also a 'subject expert' with regard to drone operations.

Tony Cowan

Photographs from PAvCon. Tap on each photograph to gain an enlargement.