PSNI spy drones get green light

PSNI spy drones get green light

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

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."


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