Police could soon use unmanned spyplanes like those used to track enemy troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for surveillance operations on British homes.
The Home Office has suggested that the remote-controlled drones could be used to help police gather evidence and track criminals without putting officers at risk.
The miniature aircraft could be fitted with cameras and heat-seeking equipment, allowing police to carry out aerial reconnaissance from a control room.
They also have the benefit of being quieter than conventional helicopters or spotter planes and are much cheaper to run due to their fuel economy.
However, their use is likely to provoke opposition from people sceptical of Britain’s increasing use of surveillance equipment, who fear they represent yet another example of the expansion of a Big Brother state.
Plans to introduce the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is outlined in the Home Office’s Science and Innovation Strategy.
It states: “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are likely to become an increasingly useful tool for police in the future, potentially reducing the number of dangerous situations the police may have to enter and also providing evidence for prosecutions and support police operations in ‘real time’.”
It adds: “We need to investigate how such vehicles could be used, and their ability to provide high quality evidence for convictions.”
Ministers are speaking to the Civil Aviation Authority about the introduction of UAVs, some of which measure just 2ft across.
There are safety concerns over the devices, some of which have been prone to crashing in use in battlefield situations.
Why not just make everyone wear a web cam 24/7 … for their own protection, of course?