PSNI spy drones get green light

Published Thursday, 11 April 2013
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Police will deploy unmanned aerial drones as part of the security operation for this year's G8 in Co Fermanagh, it has been confirmed.

PSNI spy drones get green light
The Lough Erne resort in Co Fermanagh. (© Getty)

The vehicles - described as being like "large model aircraft" - will be piloted from the ground and used to relay information to uniform police officers during searches.

It is planned the new technology will be in place in time for June, when eight of the world's most powerful leaders will travel to Northern Ireland for the G8 summit.

There have already been security fears ahead of the event after dissident republicans abandoned a 60kg beer keg bomb in a car in Co Fermanagh - it was defused by the army amid a major security alert towards the end of last month.

Protests against the conference are also likely to take place.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay told UTV the surveillance drones will be able to monitor suspicious activity, as well as keeping an eye on public order situations.

"They're unmanned aerial vehicles like large model aircraft," he explained.

I think you've always got to be prepared for any particular eventuality

ACC Finlay

"They can be used in the line of sight, small close-range drones that beam pictures back to enable police to see what is going on on the ground. They can be used in weather conditions where the helicopter maybe cannot operate and slightly closer to various places."

Plans to draft in the drones were confirmed at the Policing Board on Thursday.

Board Chair Brian Rea said: "This equipment will be a valuable asset to the PSNI in dealing with a range of policing situations and in fighting crime and criminality.

"In making the case to the Board the PSNI confirmed that UAS, when compared to traditional aircraft operating costs, represents significant value for money, can be operated in weather conditions that may prevent other aircraft flying and are easily deployed which will provide PSNI with additional flexibility and resilience in response to situations."

Around 3,500 extra police officers from around the UK have already volunteered for duty and will assist the PSNI alongside hundreds of private security guards at G8.

With some 4,500 local officers also in action it's set to be the biggest security operation ever witnessed in Northern Ireland.

Gerry Kelly of Sinn Féin is concerned the drones may lead to an invasion of privacy.

"One of my worries about them, not that they are technology that is needed but that the use of that technology," he told UTV.

"So there are issues with privacy, there are issues with what is the legislative basis that they are being used on. Who can use them? Can criminals get their hands on these items as well?"

Robin Newton of the DUP said the drones will help keep the public safe.

"It is essential that the police embrace the use of new technologies in order to allow them to carry out their duties," he said.

"The so-called 'drones' will be of use various fields including the realm of public order.

"The use of the drones will take place within a robust legal framework that ensures the safety of the public at all times."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
22 Comments
realistic in planet earth wrote (501 days ago):
@linda in ni, you convieniently forget the loyalist paramilitaries who carried out similair actions? come on linda, at least make your rants cross community and dare i say REALISTIC! :)
Linda in NI wrote (502 days ago):
Gerry Kelly wasnt too worried about the invasion of privacy when his terrorist buddies invaded the homes and workplaces of their victims when the IRA were the judge, jury & executioners!
David in BELFAST wrote (502 days ago):
In response to Sinn Feins comments. These drones are here to protect the vast majority of people here in Northern Ireland who want to live in peace. Anyone who objects to this are most probably the small minority of people who either support or are engaged in terrorist or criminal activity. In conclusion if your up to no good you will be caught. If you are not a criminal or terrorist then you have NOTHING to fear.
realistic in planet earth wrote (502 days ago):
drones in the air to catch the drones on the ground :)
desdodes in Belfast wrote (503 days ago):
Will they get the ORANGE light too?
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