LONDON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Camera-equipped drones, developed by the British military for use in war, will be used in England to keep an eye on civilians from the sky, officials say.
Police in Kent and Essex counties plan to start using them in 2012 for routine monitoring of motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and illegal dumping, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.
Collaboration between the police departments and BAE Systems, maker of the drones, began in 2007, the Telegraph said.
A prototype for police use is expected to fly this year. Its high-resolution cameras can capture images from 20,000 feet.
"Fully autonomous unmanned air systems could be routinely used by border agencies, the police and other government bodies," BAE spokesman Andrew Mellors said.
Unlike manned police helicopters, which can fly for only a few hours, the drones can remain aloft for up to 15 hours, the Telegraph reported.
"These systems will be fully autonomous so that operators task the vehicles and receive the relevant imagery and intelligence direct to the ground control station in real time," Mellors said.