Owen Bowcott and Paul Lewis report:
More and more police forces and government agencies are exploring the potential of unmanned drones for covert aerial surveillance, security, or emergency operations across the UK, the Guardian has learned.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which works closely with police forces and MI5, published an unusually detailed public tender notice in the summer requesting submissions from suppliers of airborne observation “platforms” that can be adapted for “target acquisition” and intelligence-gathering.
The proposal comes as the use of helicopter microdrones for law enforcement spreads. At least four forces – Merseyside, Essex, Staffordshire and British Transport police – have bought or used them.
Several government bodies, including the Environment Agency, have examined similar systems, while the fire services in the West Midlands and South Wales launch them as miniature spotter planes above major blazes. Some are operated commercially for aerial photography.
Microdrones can be fitted with video cameras, thermal imaging devices, radiation detectors, mobile-phone jammers and air sampling devices. Hovering at heights of around 60 metres, they are said by manufacturers to be virtually invisible from the ground.
Read more in the Guardian.