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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    CCTV in the sky: police plan to use military-style spy drones
    Arms manufacturer BAE Systems developing national strategy with consortium of government agencies

    Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the "routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.

    The arms manufacturer BAE Systems, which produces a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for war zones, is adapting the military-style planes for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police.

    Documents from the South Coast Partnership, a Home Office-backed project in which Kent police and others are developing a national drone plan with BAE, have been obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act.

    They reveal the partnership intends to begin using the drones in time for the 2012 Olympics. They also indicate that police claims that the technology will be used for maritime surveillance fall well short of their intended use – which could span a range of police activity – and that officers have talked about selling the surveillance data to private companies. A prototype drone equipped with high-powered cameras and sensors is set to take to the skies for test flights later this year.

    The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates UK airspace, has been told by BAE and Kent police that civilian UAVs would "greatly extend" the government's surveillance capacity and "revolutionise policing". The CAA is currently reluctant to license UAVs in normal airspace because of the risk of collisions with other aircraft, but adequate "sense and avoid" systems for drones are only a few years away.

    Five other police forces have signed up to the scheme, which is considered a pilot preceding the countrywide adoption of the technology for "surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering". The partnership's stated mission is to introduce drones "into the routine work of the police, border authorities and other government agencies" across the UK.

    Concerned about the slow pace of progress of licensing issues, Kent police's assistant chief constable, Allyn Thomas, wrote to the CAA last March arguing that military drones would be useful "in the policing of major events, whether they be protests or the Olympics". He said interest in their use in the UK had "developed after the terrorist attack in Mumbai".

    Stressing that he was not seeking to interfere with the regulatory process, Thomas pointed out that there was "rather more urgency in the work since Mumbai and we have a clear deadline of the 2012 Olympics"

    BAE drones are programmed to take off and land on their own, stay airborne for up to 15 hours and reach heights of 20,000ft, making them invisible from the ground.

    Far more sophisticated than the remote-controlled rotor-blade robots that hover 50-metres above the ground – which police already use – BAE UAVs are programmed to undertake specific operations. They can, for example, deviate from a routine flightpath after encountering suspicious activity on the ground, or undertake numerous reconnaissance tasks simultaneously.

    The surveillance data is fed back to control rooms via monitoring equipment such as high-definition cameras, radar devices and infrared sensors.

    Previously, Kent police has said the drone scheme was intended for use over the English Channel to monitor shipping and detect immigrants crossing from France. However, the documents suggest the maritime focus was, at least in part, a public relations strategy designed to minimise civil liberty concerns.

    "There is potential for these [maritime] uses to be projected as a 'good news' story to the public rather than more 'big brother'," a minute from the one of the earliest meetings, in July 2007, states.

    Behind closed doors, the scope for UAVs has expanded significantly. Working with various policing organisations as well as the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Maritime and Fisheries Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency, BAE and Kent police have drawn up wider lists of potential uses.

    One document lists "[detecting] theft from cash machines, preventing theft of tractors and monitoring antisocial driving" as future tasks for police drones, while another states the aircraft could be used for road and railway monitoring, search and rescue, event security and covert urban surveillance.

    Under a section entitled "Other routine tasks (Local Councils) – surveillance", another document states the drones could be used to combat "fly-posting, fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles, abnormal loads, waste management".

    Senior officers have conceded there will be "large capital costs" involved in buying the drones, but argue this will be shared by various government agencies. They also say unmanned aircraft are no more intrusive than CCTV cameras and far cheaper to run than helicopters.

    Partnership officials have said the UAVs could raise revenue from private companies. At one strategy meeting it was proposed the aircraft could undertake commercial work during spare time to offset some of the running costs.

    There are two models of BAE drone under consideration, neither of which has been licensed to fly in non-segregated airspace by the CAA. The Herti (High Endurance Rapid Technology Insertion) is a five-metre long aircraft that the Ministry of Defence deployed in Afghanistan for tests in 2007 and 2009.

    CAA officials are sceptical that any Herti-type drone manufacturer can develop the technology to make them airworthy for the UK before 2015 at the earliest. However the South Coast Partnership has set its sights on another BAE prototype drone, the GA22 airship, developed by Lindstrand Technologies which would be subject to different regulations. BAE and Kent police believe the 22-metre long airship could be certified for civilian use by 2012.

    Military drones have been used extensively by the US to assist reconnaissance and airstrikes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    But their use in war zones has been blamed for high civilian death tolls.


    Paul Lewis
    The Guardian,
    Saturday 23 January 2010

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/23/cctv-sky-police-plan-drones


    Comment While this is not really a drug related article I still thought it was relevant here...

Comments

  1. chillinwill
    It has been nicknamed the flying saucepan and looks an unlikely weapon in the war against crime.

    But yesterday it emerged that a suspected car thief had become the first person to be arrested in Britain thanks to the help of this miniature remote-controlled helicopter.
    [IMGR="black"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=13214&stc=1&d=1265986827[/IMGR]
    The Air Robot or drone was deployed by Merseyside police after officers lost the alleged offender who had escaped on foot in thick fog.

    Using the device's on-board camera and thermal-imaging technology, the operator was able to pick up the suspect through his body heat and direct foot patrols to his location.

    It led officers to a 16-year-old youth, who was hiding in bushes alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal, in Litherland, Merseyside.

    The drone, which measures 3ft between the tips of its four carbon fibre rotor blades, uses unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology originally designed for military reconnaissance.

    The battery-powered device can have a range of cameras attached to its main body, including CCTV surveillance or thermal imaging cameras.

    It is designed to hover almost silently above crime scenes and send live footage to officers on the ground, but the unit can also 'perch and stare' from a solid platform, allowing the operator to capture hours of footage from a hidden vantage point.

    Merseyside Police is one of a handful of forces trying out the devices which, at £40,000 each, are far cheaper to use for small-scale operations than a conventional helicopter.

    They have been using the drones for two years, mainly to help in search and rescue operations, to execute drug warrants and to crack down on anti-social behaviour.

    In August, Derbyshire police used a similar drone to monitor protests at the British National Party's Red, White and Blue festival in Condor, Derbyshire.

    However, this is the first time an arrest has been directly linked to the use of the Air Robot. The incident happened at around 4.30pm on January 26 after officers were told about a stolen Renault Clio in Bootle, Merseyside.

    After a pursuit, two suspects abandoned the vehicle and tried to make off on foot.

    One of them, a 20-year-old man, was quickly arrested but the other managed to escape into the thick fog and darkness along the canal towpath. Police chiefs decided to draft in the drone, which can reach heights of 500ft and is controlled by an officer up to 1,500ft away.


    Using its thermal imaging equipment the device quickly located its target in bushes beside the canal through his body heat and relayed live pictures to a police van nearby. Foot patrols then went and arrested him.

    Both men who were arrested have since been released on police bail pending further inquiries.

    Chief Inspector Nick Gunatilleke, of Merseyside anti-social behaviour taskforce, said: 'These arrests demonstrate the value of having something like the UAV.

    'The live footage was being viewed by the UAV's operator in the mobile command vehicle and they were able to direct patrols on the ground.'

    The Home Office is now exploring how the craft can be used to give back-up to police, ambulance and fire services.

    Spy drones are considered the future of policing, although critics have voiced concerns that they could be a worrying extension of Big Brother Britain.

    Last month arms manufacturer BAE Systems said it was adapting military-style UAVs for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police. Documents showed the force hoped to begin using the drones in time for the 2012 Olympics.

    But they also indicated that the drones could eventually be used to spy on the civilian population, by rooting out motorists suspected of antisocial driving, for covert urban surveillance and to monitor 'waste management' for local councils.

    Liz Hull
    February 12, 2010
    Daily Mail
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1250177/Police-make-arrest-using-unmanned-drone.html
  2. mickey_bee
    The UK already has the most CCTV cameras per person in the world. Do we really need these aswell?
    I'm from Liverpool, and have heard the local police talking on the radio about how these helicopter-drones will be used primarily simply to watch over areas of high crime,- not actually to respond to incidents, but just to watch the general public, regardless of whether or not suspected illegal activity is going on.

    When will Big Brother learn to leave people alone!!!!
  3. b3ni
    Future police: Meet the UK's armed robot drones

    [​IMG]

    Police forces all over the UK will soon be able to draw on unmanned aircraft from a national fleet, according to Home Office plans. Last month it was revealed that modified military aircraft drones will carry out surveillance on everyone from protesters and antisocial motorists to fly-tippers, and will be in place in time for the 2012 Olympics.

    Surveillance is only the start, however. Military drones quickly moved from reconnaissance to strike, and if the British police follow suit, their drones could be armed -- but with non-lethal weapons rather than Hellfire missiles.

    The flying robot fleet will range from miniature tactical craft such as the miniature AirRobot being tested by Essex police, to BAE System's new HERTI drone as flown in Afghanistan. The drones are cheaper than police helicopters -- some of which will be retired -- and are as wide as 12m in the case of HERTI.

    Watching events on the ground without being able to act is frustrating. Targets often got away before an unarmed drone could summon assistance. In fact, in 2000 it was reported that an airborne drone spotted Osama bin Laden but could do nothing but watch him escape. So the RAF has been carrying out missions in Afghanistan with missile-armed Reapers since 2007. From the ground these just look like regular aircraft.

    The police have already had a similar experience with CCTV. As well as observing, some of these are now equipped with speakers. Pioneered in Middleborough, the talking CCTV allows an operator to tell off anyone engaging in vandalism, graffiti or littering.

    Unmanned aircraft can also be fitted with speakers, such as the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which could not only warn fly tippers that they were breaking the law but also be loud enough to drive them away.

    The LRAD is a highly directional speaker made of a flat array of piezoelectric transducers, producing intense beam of sound in a 30-degree cone. It can be used as a loudhailer, or deafen the target with a jarring, discordant noise. Some ships now carry LRAD as an anti-pirate measure: It was used to drive off an attack on the Seabourn Spirit off Somalia in 2005.

    LRAD makers American Technology prefer to call its product a device rather than a weapon, and use terms such as "deterrent tones" and "influencing behaviour." Police in the US have already adopted a vehicle-mounted LRAD for crowd control, breaking up protests at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last year, although there have been warnings about the risk of hearing damage.

    The LRAD has been tested on the Austrian S-100 unmanned helicopter, and the technology is ready if there is a police requirement.

    But rather than just driving them away, a police drone should be able to stop fleeing criminals in their tracks. Helicopters already mount powerful searchlights, and strobe lighting capabilities can turn such systems into effective nonlethal weapons. High-intensity strobes can cause dizziness, disorientation and loss of balance making it virtually impossible to run away.

    This effect was first harnessed in the "Photic Driver" made by British company Allen International in 1973. However, it has taken improvement in lighting technology (such as fast-switching Xenon lights) and an understanding of the physiology involved to make such weapons practical.

    A "light based personnel immobilisation device" developed by Peak Beam Systems Inc has been successfully tested by the US military, and work to mount it on an unmanned helicopter in the States is under way.

    This sort of light would be too dangerous for a manned aircraft because of the crew being affected. But an unmanned "strober" could be a literal crime stopper, and something we could see deployed within the next couple of years.

    Even the smallest drones could be used for tactical police operations. As far back as 1972 the Home Office looked at model aircraft as an alternative to rubber bullets, literally flying them into rioters to knock them off their feet.

    French company Tecknisolar Seni has demonstrated a portable drone armed with a double-barrelled 44mm Flash-Ball gun. Used by French special police units, the one-kilo Flash-Ball resembles a large calibre handgun and fires non-lethal rounds, including tear gas and rubber impact rounds to bring down a suspect without permanent damage -- "the same effect as the punch of a champion boxer," claim makers Verney-Carron.

    However, last year there were questions over the use of Flash-Ball rounds by French police. Like other impact rounds, the Flash-Ball is meant to be aimed at the body -- firing from a remote, flying platform is likely to increase the risk of head injury.

    Another option is the taser. Taser stun guns are now so light (about 150 grams) that they could be mounted on the smaller drones. Antoine di Zazzo, head of SMP Technologies, which distributes tasers in France, says the company is fitting one to a small quad-rotor iDrone (another quad-rotor toy helicopter), which some have called a "flying saucer".

    Robots are already the preferred way of approaching possible bombs without putting officers lives at risk. In the future, police may prefer to deal with potentially dangerous suspects the same way, tackling them remotely using a taser if the situation requires it.

    But tasers are controversial. In 2008 the Met rejected government plans for a wider issue of tasers to non-specialist officers because of the fear they could cause, and there have been numerous complaints of abuse. For some, the arrival of a hovering law-enforcement drone with a video eyes and a 50,000-volt taser at the ready might be a police technology too far.

    Which leads Wired to ask you for your thoughts: Are tasers and armed robot drones the ideal next step for British law enforcement, or will it just make our police officers less capable of dealing with serious problems when they're forced to intervene in person? Let us know in the comments below.

    http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-02/10/future-police-meet-the-uk's-armed-robot-drones.aspx
  4. b3ni
    I've been following a thread on slashdot about the article I just posted. The common consensus seemed to be that if a young child gets tazed from above there will be up roar. Which I agree with.

    Although I doubt that the drones will be used in crowded areas, could a criminal and a child be definitely distinguished at great distance?
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