Police used a remote-controlled “flying saucer” to monitor the BNP’s Red, White and Blue festival in Codnor, Derbyshire, where anti-fascist protesters have assembled.
Similar to a mini-helicopter, the device has four pairs of carbon-fibre rotor blades which support a camera. An operator on the ground controls the vehicle’s flight using a hand-held control panel with two joysticks.
The drone – which is based on military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology – feeds live images back to a screen on the control unit, enabling the “pilot” to operate the machine even when it is out of his or her sight.
Merseyside Police was the first force to use the drones, launching them during a number of crackdowns on gun and gang crime, as well as against anti-social behaviour. The aerial cameras have also previously been deployed to deter crime at pop festivals. Yesterday was the first time it was used at a demonstration.
Their capacity to provide extra video evidence could prove useful to police forces which face allegations about their public order tactics, and about differing versions of major events such as London’s G20 protests in April.
A Derbyshire Police spokeswoman said: “A pilotless drone plane will be used to record evidence at the Red, White and Blue festival.
“The drone, fitted with CCTV cameras, will be used by a trained operator from the manufacturing company. It will record any incidents of disorder for evidence-gathering purposes. The drone is similar to a small, model aircraft.”
The drone is about three feet in diameter and can be configured to gather still images, video, thermal images and night-vision pictures. Unlike full-scale police helicopters it is virtually inaudible. …
Cool, but can it taze people, bro?