A professional drone pilot has raised safety concerns about a drone being flown by firefighters over Ledbury town centre at night.

Mark Edwards, who has been a licenced drone pilot since 2013, saw a drone flying above Ledbury High Street on the evening of January 4.

“I stood and watched in disbelief a drone flying in a crazy, unprofessional manner - hovering above private houses,up and down the high street, over pay and display car parks,” said Mr Edwards.

“The drone lights were changing from all-red to all-green, then a high powered spot light came on for 1-3 seconds then went off. The drone would go dark for a few seconds and appear again in another part of town, in such a manner that caused me to think it was criminals at work.

“I stood outside the Ledbury Market House witnessing this crazy non-structured flight.

“As I have over 4,000 logged flight hours flying a commercial 20kg drone, I am fully versed as to what is a legal flight.”

Mr Edwards said the incident was reported to Ledbury police, who got in touch with him two days later to say the drone belonged to Ledbury Fire Station.

But the fire service says public safety is always maintained during its drone flights and that its pilots undergo “extensive” training.

Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service confirmed a drone training exercise took place on January 4.

“The police were contacted by the complainant but they are satisfied that there is no activity that is of concern for public safety,” said station commander Adrian Thompson.

“All of our pilots have undertaken extensive training that includes night flying. They have been assessed to recognised national standards and accumulate the appropriate level of flying time to maintain competence.

“The drones are used extensively for many different emergency scenarios for fire or to support our emergency services colleagues.”

Drones located at Ledbury Fire Station have recently been used to assist police with searches for missing persons and at the huge fire at Hoo Farm Industrial Estate in Kidderminster last month.

Station commander Thomson added: “We are using exemptions available to us through the Civil Aviation Authority to allow realistic training in urban populated areas but these are used sensibly, proportionately and for the minimum time to develop and support pilot experience and to build up the required training time.

“Most of the training is carried out in more remote areas but this does not reflect the majority of the drone’s operational use, where it supports firefighting operations as well as our emergency services partners.

“Our pilots are competent, considerate and professional in their approach to training and we can reassure the public that their safety is maintained during any flight in training or for real emergency incidents.”

Mr Edwards, who runs a Herefordshire-based film company with his twin brother Paul, has a couple of suggestions to improve the safety of fire service drone flights.

“These drones have razor sharp blades, they should fly them with propeller guards fitted. These stop bird strikes and we have them as standard when working on a film as if it comes down, it stops people getting sliced.

“They could also have blue flashing lights on top of the drone so the public know it's the emergency services.”