A blundering police officer wrecked a £64,000 drone by pressing the wrong buttons on its remote control panel, causing it to drop out of the sky.
The officer, who has not been named, launched the top-of-the-range craft to use its thermal imaging camera in a night-time search for a missing person.
But a warning icon which he did not recognise appeared on the tablet computer he was using to fly the quadcopter.
The officer had launched the Aeryon SkyRanger R60 drone to use its thermal cameras to search for a missing person when it plummeted to the ground
The 33-year-old officer tried to remove the warning symbol by repeatedly pressing it, not realising he was shutting down the drone’s four electric motors.
The operator, who had only six hours’ experience flying drones, watched in horror as the craft plunged 70ft into a large pond at Maidenbower near Crawley, West Sussex.
The mishap prompted a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
Investigators revealed that the Aeryon SkyRanger R60 drone was ‘destroyed’ in the incident just before 2am on June 17 last year.
The gadget was one of four all-weather drones bought jointly by Sussex and Surrey Police in 2016 with a £250,000 grant from the Home Office.
A Sussex Police spokesman said: ‘Surrey Police and Sussex Police are committed to the safe conduct of all our drone operations.
‘The pilot concerned was removed from flying following the incident while refresher training and reassessment was arranged.’