UK police forces are going to start using drones to help them control protests, investigate burglaries and carry out sieges, according to The Times.
Drones will be adopted by UK police forces after a number of senior police officials concluded that they were an efficient alternative to helicopters, police dogs, and even officers themselves.
Until now, UK police forces have not used drones except for in a small number of trials.
Over 25% of the 43 police forces in England and Wales are evaluating whether they should start using drones in their operations.
Steve Barry, the National Police Chief’s Council lead on drones, told The Times that members of the public should expect to see more police-controlled drones flying around the country.
Police in Sussex and Surrey have already carried out successful drone trials, with one trial reportedly taking place at Gatwick Airport in South London involving a camera-equipped drone that patrolled the perimeter of the airport for suspicious activity.
Following the trial, the Sussex and Surrey police received a £250,000 grant from the Police Innovation Fund to buy five SkyRanger drones from Aeryon Labs in Canada. The forces are said to be using the drones to search for missing people and at accident scenes.
Outside the UK, law enforcement agencies and military personnel have already used the SkyRanger drone to catch drug dealers in Central America and Canada. In the UK they have been used by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to help fight fires.
“They [drones] can be efficient and effective,” Barry told The Times. “If someone breaks into your shed and then makes off, and there are dozens of back sheds he might be hiding in… drones could be the perfect solution. They would be quicker than dogs.”
Barry also said drones could be used in sieges when officers can’t access the crime scene for one reason or another. “You could send up the drone and use the videolink before making a decision how to proceed,” he said.
Drones are becoming a more viable option for police forces as costs come down on the devices, Barry said.
The Metropolitan Police Service declined to answer a freedom of information request from Business Insider in April 2015 about its budget and official guidance for officers about drones. It claimed that: “Confirming or denying whether any further information is held would be likely to compromise law enforcement tactics, which in turn would hinder the prevention and detection of crime.”
As the police considers rolling out drones across the country, the UK public is being warned about the misuse of drones.
National guidelines have been drawn up to help the police decide when to take action against mischievous pilots who have already flown their drones near passenger jets or used them to spy on their neighbours.