A police officer with three-and-a-half hours of flight experience lost control of a drone in misty conditions, an Air Accidents Investigation Branch report found.

The £7,500 Parot Anafi USA was blown off course and was found in a playground the next day – 5km from where it launched.

The AAIB said the Thames Valley Police drone was launched at night above Quarry Span Hill, near Henley-upon-Thames, on the night of April 3 during a police search operation after reports of a rave.

When the drone was around 120m away from the take off point and hovering over the quarry, the officer tried to recall the equipment using the ‘return to home function’. Mist in the area made it harder to see the blue visibility light on the drone.

He pressed the ‘return to home’ button but the drone did not fly back to the take off point, as he’d expected.

“He recalled that he pressed ‘return to home’ once again to cancel the command, but the unmanned aircraft continued to fly in a northerly direction until it was out of sight and the screen of the controller went black,” the report said.

Accident investigators said the drone had not registered its GPS location before take off, meaning the ‘return to home’ function was ineffective. There ‘may have been’ a chance to fly the drone back to the take off point manually, they added.

The report said: “Thee manufacturer indicated that in the absence of GPS, it would expect that the UA is either not flown or flown with extreme caution.”

The pilot had three-and-a-half hours’ of flight experience in total and had only did a training flight in the month before losing the drone in April.

Report authors said: Having completed only one flight in the month preceding the accident flight, this would meet the operator’s definition of a ‘period of inactivity’, requiring the pilot to undertake a flight assessment with the chief pilot/instructor before further operational flying.

“It is not clear whether this requirement was monitored at an individual or organisational level.”

The drone was recovered undamaged in a play area 5km away the following day. It had landed automatically.

Thames Valley Police had proposed retraining and reassessment of the pilot involved, the AAIB noted.

In a statement, Ch Insp Adrian Hall of Thames Valley Police’s joint operations unit said: “Following the incident, individual and organisational learning was identified and these have now been addressed.”

The drone was now back in use, he added.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok

Got a story for us? Send us your news and pictures here

List an event for free on our website here