UAVs – Unmanned Ariel Vehicles, were originally designed for as replacements/support for military aircraft. The famous “predator” drone, has been reported conducting numerous attacks in Iraq, Yemen and war zones around the world .
The UK are now using the same technology to patrol the streets of Britain. These can be used to monitor people without the imposition of putting up new CCTV masts, or the alerting noise of police helicopters. Some are referring to it as the “Friendly Eyes in the Sky”, others, simply more surveillance.
The UK has been trialling a UAV known as “Microdrone MD4-200” since June 2007 in Liverpool. The German-built Microdrone is tiny compared to the 8.14m Predator mentioned above, at just over 1 metre long, it weighs less than 1 kilo. This means there are no requirements for clearance from the CAA – Civil Aviation Authority, as its regarded as a “toy”. Its weight and engines mean that its “near-silent”, so the public will not always know its there. But at 55 m, it can still pick out faces from a crowd, or park, or garden.
According the IET – Insitute of Engineering and Technology, police chiefs in the UK expect the UAVs to be rolled out nationally by 2012, when the UAVs will be used most regularly. It is widely rumored that the UAVs will be deployed during the 2012 Olympics as part of the security arrangements. The Herald reported that RAF will be deploying the miltary drones the “Reaper” during the Olympics.
The Reaper UAVs are more like the Predator than the microdrone, in fact they are a direct descendant of the Predator. The Reaper weighs over 1.6 tonnes, and can carry a massive payload bringing it upto 5 tonnes. It has cameras, thermal imaging and radar, and has a flight time of 16 to 18 hours.
In April The Times reported that Essex and Kent Police Forces were also trialing the systems, though this time they were using systems from BAe.
The microdrones, currently being trialed in the UK, currently have a flying time measured in minutes, where as the fulyl fledged miltary UAVs are 10 to 20 hours. As a result the government is working on systems that can fly far far longer, ideally indefinitely. QinetiQ, has already produced Zephyr UAV, which can fly for 18 hours, using solar power to keep it in the air
Despite all this additional monitoring, the ability to put CCTV cameras anywhere at any time, hover over pirvate houses and gardens, adn spy in houses, surely the probability of the police misusing data is tiny? And just because people have access to CCTV cameras that can be hovered outside people bedrooms, the operators would never watch people for their own voyeristic purposes, would they?
Knowing that the goverment deparments have lost and misused data, and CCTV operators have misused their cameras on several occasions, surely there has been a consulation exercise on the use and deployment of UAVs? No, of course not.