A DRONE and a police helicopter have joined a huge hunt for a veteran soldier who has been missing for more than a day.
Dad-of-two Robert Ballantyne vanished from his home in Leigh Park shortly after 7.30am on Sunday morning.
About 100 volunteers scoured Havant Thicket and Stanstead Park yesterday to try track down the 37-year-old Kosovo veteran.
However, the hunt was called off by police shortly after 9pm.
It has since resumed with police now working alongside Hampshire Search and Rescue and All Call Signs, which runs search operations to find high-risk missing veterans.
More than a dozen people from the Portsmouth-based All Call Signs to hunt through woodland north of Swanmore Road, in Leigh Park.
They were joined by Bognor-based businessman Mark Boyt, who runs Drone Safe Register and has teamed up with the charity after scoring a massive investment from Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, Peter Jones.
Mr Boyt deployed his drone to help scan woodland and grassland to try and find the former Royal Highlands Fusiliers soldier. He has also offered All Call Signs the support of his extensive list of approved drone operators.
He said: ‘This is my first time working with All Call Signs. I saw them put up the alert and just knew I had to help.
‘I’ve gone out to the council and got permission to operate in the area. I just want to do anything that I can to help.’
Dan Arnold, co-founder of All Call Signs, has been co-ordinating his volunteers with police.
Among his team included veteran and serving soldiers, former Royal Navy sailors, a member of the RAF, as well as an off-duty National Crime Agency official and Good Samaritans.
He said he had been amazed at the number of people who had signed up to join the search.
‘It really does restore your faith in humanity, it’s been amazing,’ said the former soldier, who served with the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
During their search, volunteers discovered a red and black rucksack, believed to belong to Mr Ballantyne. A tent and sleeping bag were also found nearby.
Search operations are now being focused towards the area around the Rowlands Castle Golf Course
Police said Robert, who is 6ft 4ins and speaks with a Glaswegian accent, was last seen wearing a blue raincoat and grey hoody, jeans and Timberland boots.
A police spokesman said: ‘We are appealing to the public for help us find Robert Ballantyne, who has gone missing from his home in Leigh Park.
'Robert, 37, is described as being a white male, six foot four inches tall, with a shaved head and short beard.
'We and his family are concerned for his welfare. If you think you may have seen Robert or know where he is, please call 101, quoting log number 234 14/04.’
:: Anyone facing difficulties can call Samaritans on 116 123.