British police turn to drones

Sept. 24, 2010 at 6:46 PM
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LONDON, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- At least four British police departments have acquired unmanned aircraft and several more are considering the use of drones, The Guardian reported Friday.

Fire services in the West Midlands and South Wales use small unmanned aircraft for fire spotting, the newspaper said. The police forces that have used them are Merseyside in the Liverpool area, Staffordshire, Essex and the British Transport Police.

The Serious Organized Crime Agency has released specifications for drones to be used for "target acquisition."

Microdrones can be equipped with devices for everything from thermal imaging to air sampling, and are almost impossible to detect from the ground when they are flying at altitudes of 200 feet, manufacturers say.

This week, the Civil Aviation Authority warned that only licensed drones can be used within 150 feet of people, buildings or other property.

"In the past we have seen people seriously injured or even killed by model aircraft and now that small, unmanned aircraft are becoming more readily available and simpler to fly, we need to avoid any similar incidents," the agency said.

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