The Telegraph has reported that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, also known as drones) may be used over cities or big events like Glastonbury, according to a National Police Air Service director.
It has been suggested that drones could have been used during the Olympic Games but the idea was rejected due to it not being cost effective.
At a presentation to the defence industry, Superintendent Richard Watson said: “I think we missed an opportunity with the Olympics. But there is an opportunity to do things differently. Until we start to ask the questions, we will always think the same way.
“I see unmanned systems as part of the future. There is an aircraft over London all the time – every day, giving images back. Why does it need to be a very expensive helicopter?”
Supt Watson added that the police would have to ensure that drones were cost effective in order to convince the public of their use against fears of a “Big Brother” state.
At a time when police budgets are under immense pressure and the public see fewer officers on the beat, is it really the best time to the police to be buying new toys to spy on us from thousands of feet in the air? Supt Watson seems to be willfully ignoring all the evidence about how ineffective CCTV is at stopping crime and the serious civil liberties questions about how these machines could be abused.
The regulation of drones appears dangerously lax where they do not weigh enough to be covered by the main air rules, something it appears those selling drones are keen to exploit. We need clear rules that establish what drones can be used and why, before we see our skies littered with flying cameras.
Yet again we’re seeing military hardware re-designed to be used in civilian environments when there is no clear pressing reason to do so, other than the profits of the companies involved.