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UK Police Plan To Use Military-Style Spy Drones 390

Posted by Soulskill
from the knock-down-the-copseyes dept.
krou writes "According to documents obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, the UK police plan on deploying unmanned drones in the UK to 'revolutionize policing' and extend domestic 'surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering,' which will be used in 'the routine work of the police, border authorities and other government agencies.' The documents come from the South Coast Partnership, 'a Home Office-backed project in which Kent police and others are developing a national drone plan' in conjunction with BAE Systems. The stated aim is to introduce the system in time for the 2012 Olympics. Initially, Kent police stated that the system would be used to monitor shipping lanes and illegal immigrants, but the documents reveal that this was part of a PR strategy: 'There is potential for these [maritime] uses to be projected as a "good news" story to the public rather than more "big brother."' However, the documents talk about a much wider range of usage, such as '[detecting] theft from cash machines, preventing theft of tractors and monitoring antisocial driving,' as well as 'road and railway monitoring, search and rescue, event security and covert urban surveillance.' Also, due to the expense involved, it has also been suggested that some data could be sold off to private companies, or the drones could be used for commercial purposes."
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UK Police Plan To Use Military-Style Spy Drones

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  • Missing Tag (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grayshirtninja (1242690) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:15PM (#30907436)

    1984

  • Big Brother? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:17PM (#30907462)

    But Big Brother wasn't bad, he was always there to protect you...to watch out for you. He would never hurt you.

    What is really amazing isn't that they're implementing this system, it's that their rhetoric is so very similar to that from 1984. They don't call the system or the watchers big brother, but they tell you that it's for your protection, only bad people have anything to fear, and generally have a nearly indistinguishable attitude about it. The only difference is the name. But not many actually read 1984 I suppose (from the general populace, geeks here not included) so most people I imagine don't realize the similarities in rhetoric.

    This is obviously a bad thing, and makes me very cautious about even wanting to enter the UK. Yikes.

  • by click2005 (921437) * on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:17PM (#30907468)

    '[detecting] theft from cash machines, preventing theft of tractors and monitoring antisocial driving,'

    They're either going to have tens of thousands of them or hoping to get really lucky.

    Also, due to the expense involved, it has also been suggested that some data could be sold off to private companies, or the drones could be used for commercial purposes

    So we'll see TV shows featuring footage captured by drones?

    Google might buy it too but if its targeting people it'll make obscuring faces harder.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:24PM (#30907556) Homepage
      Great Britain, I'd like to introduce you to this American invention we call the "cowboy hat". It's related to some older technology (the sombrero) and serves to protect the face (and neck) from sunburn and observation by aerial surveillance drones.
      • by Reziac (43301) *

        And another excellent invention, the bounty hunter. Wonder what sort of bounty a drone would be worth??

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lobiusmoop (305328)

        In the UK, the hoodie [wikipedia.org] serves that purpose, and has grown in popularity pretty much in parallel with the deployment of CCTV in the cities.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:14PM (#30908392) Journal

        Great Britain, I'd like to introduce you to this American invention we call the "cowboy hat". It's related to some older technology (the sombrero) and serves to protect the face (and neck) from sunburn and observation by aerial surveillance drones.

        American, I'd like to introduce you to this great British invention we call the "hoodie". It's related to some older technology (the hooded cloak) and serves to protect the body from cold and the face from observation by CCTV & aerial surveillance drones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)

        It's related to some older technology (the sombrero) and serves to protect the face (and neck) from sunburn.

        You're gonna lose too many UK residents with that kind of terminology. Tell them it's good for keeping the rain out of their shirts.

    • I'm sure celebrity nude sunbathing shots are expected to be the primary revenue generation source.

      Given how successful the ten jillion cameras in London have been at preventing crime I expect this will finish the criminals off.

      • I can't help feeling that the Scottish Nationalists have the wrong idea. Rather than independence for Scotland, maybe we can just kick England, or even just London, out of the union and let their politicians keep doing stupid things while the rest of us ignore them.
    • the undersides and such or have it tow a big big banner.

      This Surveillance Drone is sponsored by Big Brother, MTV 7pm daily.

      More than likely the revenue model will be new crimes for which there is a nice monetary penalty attached. Perhaps we can combine this with the Global Warming cabal and fine people for barbecue grills or too much outdoor lighting.

    • by odin84gk (1162545)

      Marketing information. They will gather information about the amount of foot traffic down a certain road, the demographics (white, male, middle age, family...), and the time of day they get the traffic. Companies will pay good money for that, especially one trying to determine the best location for their specialty shop.

      Or, lets put a powerful projector on these, and let them project commercials directly in front of someone.

      Oh! How about changing these to helicopters and hang signs on them.

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:24PM (#30907560)

    In the United States, we'll shoot at helicopters with actual people in them. If Homeland Security tried to spy on us with drones, it would become a sport to shoot them down. And they WOULD go down, too. Lots of expensive wreckage.

    I hear in the UK you've got people dropping tires on traffic cameras and setting them on fire. Your hearts are in the right place, but it's tough to get a tire over a UAV.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by farlukar (225243)

      If Homeland Security tried to spy on us with drones, it would become a sport to shoot them down. And they WOULD go down, too. Lots of expensive wreckage.

      But I guess they'd have footage of the culprit who shot it down and let him pay for the expensive wreckage...

      • Indeed, anyone wearing long sleeves, long pants, a hat, facemask, and sunglasses needs to watch out. When your suspect has no discernible features, everyone's a suspect.

    • by mhajicek (1582795) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:42PM (#30907850)
      Sounds like a good application for hackers; don't shoot them down, commandeer them.
      • or EMP the hell out of them with that device that was intended to be used by cops in car chases
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:45PM (#30907888) Journal

      In the United States, we'll shoot at helicopters with actual people in them. If Homeland Security tried to spy on us with drones, it would become a sport to shoot them down. And they WOULD go down, too. Lots of expensive wreckage.

      As much as I love the 2nd amendment, you do realize that most small arms top out at 10,000 feet and these drones fly around 20,000 feet or higher, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mjwx (966435)

        most small arms top out at 10,000 feet and these drones fly around 20,000 feet or higher

        Fortunately, unlike the US the UK hasn't placed so many restrictions on hobbyist UAV's or as we English speakers prefer to call them, model aeroplanes.

        They don't even need to be armed, even without guns an aircraft as one weapon left and the Japanese perfected it's application.

        You never need to fight harder, you need to fight smarter or as Sir Winston put it:

        Battles are won by slaughter and manoeuvre, the more a

    • by 1s44c (552956)

      In the United States, we'll shoot at helicopters with actual people in them. If Homeland Security tried to spy on us with drones, it would become a sport to shoot them down. And they WOULD go down, too. Lots of expensive wreckage.

      These drones go 20,000ft high, you can't even see them yet alone shoot at them.

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      In the United States, we'll shoot at helicopters with actual people in them. If Homeland Security tried to spy on us with drones, it would become a sport to shoot them down. And they WOULD go down, too....

      Really? I remember at the Republican National Convention in NY in 2004, there was a Fuji labeled blimp (balloon, actually, it was tethered) overhead the entire time and it was supposed to be there for surveillance. I don't recall anyone taking shots at that and it was a big, stationary target.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        I don't recall anyone taking shots at that and it was a big, stationary target.

        That's because the only people who have guns in New York City are criminals and cops. Honest citizens can't be trusted with them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by w0mprat (1317953)
      Your moderation is deserved. Your username is apt even.

      However you neglect to mention death and injury from drones falling out of the sky. I doubt people will take pot shots at UAVs in the UK, however a cheap laserpointer would render it blind or cause it crash.

      This would not go down well stateside, first lawsuit and it's all over.
  • They've been doing this for a while now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h31VSf1_rk [youtube.com]

  • by ChinggisK (1133009) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:27PM (#30907614)

    preventing theft of tractors and monitoring antisocial driving

    What the heck is 'antisocial driving'? A car driving separate from the other cars because it is shy and lacks social skills?

  • by Manip (656104) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:29PM (#30907628)

    Apart from being far cheaper and safer, how is this different from police helicopters they already use and have been using for over twenty years?

    • by rotide (1015173) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:50PM (#30907956)

      I would guess the cameras are very steady and will have much better vision than human eyes from 500ft.

      Helicopters are also usually out assisting ground units in specific cases. Meaning, the ground units need an eye above them for a _limited_ amount of time to track a fleeing suspect or to just keep an eye open in the even a situation they are engaging in turns into a chase situation (IE: meth lab bust, etc).

      Drones can just go up and stay up. They aren't there to follow chases and they aren't there to provide lighting. Drones can simply stay up recording anything a controlling officer finds interesting to look at.

      Basically, helicopters are specific use and drones are whatever the camera operator wants it to be.

      At least, that's the way I see it.

    • by EdZ (755139)
      It's not. But we can't let that get in the way of Bemoaning the Police state now, can we?
  • Just pair this program with this [itproportal.com] and you've got the perfect captive audience.

    Since wage-slaves can't be paid enough to focus on monitors for hours on end, just recruit the populace. The upside is that if you're an especially good snitch they can let you pilot a drone as a reward. Then they can make a TV show about that, a weekly feature to show off the citizen response to the dangers of knife crime and truancy.

    Who needs a community of people working for the common good when technology can step in and ke
  • You can't impose Draconian surveillance and anti-privacy laws immediately. The British government are imposing them the only way they can, by slowly freezing Britain into a harsh moral winter.
  • Politicians take note: George Orwell's Ninteen Eighty-Four is not a manual for statecraft.
  • Helicopters are already here. I don't see any outrage over those.

    Besides, it's a little late to say "oh you know we may have privacy issues" in the UK of all places. There's a camera on every street corner and then some.

    I'm not for this or against it. IMHO it's just like a helo circling all day which in some places, like LA, is not too far from the current reality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stei7766 (1359091)

      In principle its the same as a helicopter, but due to the reduced cost I would imagine you could put lots more of these in the air. I think that's where the concern is.

      Not sure about airspace though, I would imagine airspace over much of the UK is pretty busy.

  • Eeek (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rotide (1015173) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:39PM (#30907798)

    What are the laws going to be on probable cause to stop someone that is on "candid camera"?

    What I mean is, if it spots you jaywalking, can they just follow you around and order local units to stop you? If you're walking by a street vendor and they see you reach into a bin, then moments later just happen to put your hand in your pocket, are they allowed to detain and search you?

    Anecdotal evidence here, take this as you will.

    A few years back I joined a "Citizens Police Academy". Basically, at its core, it is a PR program setup to bring the community and its police together. We got to basically take a free 10 week course meeting once a week where we went over the basics of all the police duties.

    Personally, I got to partake in classes where they taught you about evidence gathering, etc. We got to do mock pull overs in the parking lot (quite interesting scenarios), I got to go on ride alongs (4 hours "on the beat" with an officer), I got to fire their weapons at their range, and I also got to partake (although limited) in on site SWAT training where I got to be the bad guy and we basically played hide and seek.

    The most enlightening part of the whole experience, as well as my point, lie in the ride along.

    Once nighttime hit, we were patrolling the back roads and an out of town car was just going along doing its thing. The driver, as far as myself and the officer were concerned, was obeying the traffic laws. However, the officer I was with had a hunch that this kid might be up to "something".

    We followed him for a bit waiting for him to screw up. Although, we were certain he knew we were behind him (crown vic headlights are easily spotted when you know what they look like). Eventually the car we were following pulled off onto a private driveway.

    The officer still was suspicious of his activity and wanted a reason (probable cause) to stop him. So we quickly u-turned and headed out to a "lookout" spot above the side street the officer expected him to exit from. The reason he wanted a good lookout spot was to see if he would not come to a complete stop at a particular stop sign.

    Interestingly enough, the kid did come out the way the officer was expecting, however, he did come to a complete, 2 second, stop. No probable cause.

    We followed him for a while longer and finally, the kid didn't come to a complete stop at another stop sign. Bam, cue the flashing lights and Signal 6.

    While I wasn't allowed out of the vehicle, I noticed him take his time in talking to the driver. Smelling for smells and looking for things to see.

    In the end, no ticket was written and it was a simple stop. However, I'm sure the kid had no idea we were 100% focused on stopping _him_ for the better part of half an hour.

    We had no reason to suspect anything and simply followed him long enough until he made a simple and honest mistake. At that point the noose was tightened and we had Probable Cause to interrupt his night for no other reason than to quench the curiosity of a random police officer.

    **For the record I want to state I didn't sense any malice or any power trip from the officer I was with. I also want to state that I won't second guess the intuition and gut feelings of police officers who deal with scum on a day to day basis. You never know when they will be right, then again, shoot a gun blindly into an ocean enough times and eventually you'll catch dinner.**

    Now is this same thing going to be commonplace with drones overhead? Are officers going to look for anyone they find interesting and purposely waste time following them until the person does _anything_ to trip probable cause?

    This just reeks of abuse of power and reeks of "show me your papers". Sure, you'll still need Probable Cause (hopefully) to stop the person, but with an unseen eye watching your every move from above, what are the chances you _won't_ do _something_ to trip PC and have your privacy invaded?

    The potential here is scary...

    • Quantum patrolling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by professorguy (1108737) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @03:03PM (#30908192)
      He only had to do all that "probable cause" thing because you were there. Without you in tow, the cop could have stopped the driver and just SAID the driver had broken some law. And who's the judge gonna believe?
  • Exactly what the difference between using these UAV's and the helicopters that they have already been flying for over a decade, these helicopters have long had the ability to do infrared/night vision. So don't act shocked. Also I see a couple references to 1984 and some fear mongering about it "peering into the windows in my home"; well that is simply fear mongering and don't stress yourself out mentally over it.

    These UAV's fly at a certain elevation like they do in America they have to register with their

  • I love Big Brother (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:44PM (#30907880)

    Strong and peaceful, wise and brave, Fighting the fight for the whole world to save, We the people will ceaselessly strive To keep our great revolution alive! Unfurl the banners! Look at the screen! Never before has such glory been seen! Oceania! Oceania! Oceania, 'tis for thee! Every deed, every thought, 'tis for thee! Every deed, every thought, 'tis for thee! Every deed, every thought, 'tis for thee!

  • by hol (89786) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:49PM (#30907946) Homepage Journal

    Well, I guess this had to happen. Full fail for street level cameras for billions, so the only option left is to go full retard.

    One cannot even argue that this is a responsible use of public funds:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/6082530/1000-CCTV-cameras-to-solve-just-one-crime-Met-Police-admits.html

    Of course, tourist photos must be deleted though, you know, in the name of public safety. Where is the "shake my head in disbelief" animated icon again?

  • Didn't they already say that all of their cameras didn't help solve crimes? So why do they need drones now?

  • by professorguy (1108737) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:52PM (#30908008)
    And when the massive tracking database of 'observations' is hacked and used against the populace, this will be seen as evidence of a need for MORE surveillance.

    When it comes to data:
    To PROTECT it,
    Don't COLLECT it.
  • Britannia is lost (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Werrismys (764601)
    Britannia is lost. Former empire is now a police-state. V (original comic) was right.

    Really - only criminals (predominantly of foreign (muslim) origin) carrying guns, police carrying MP5s at every streetcorner, all kinds of surveillance running rampant.

    Britain is gone. British no longer have the will or the means to save themselves, they have already in spirit surrendered to muslims and while the process will take some time, it will happen unless they find a fucking clue and stop treating their own brit

  • Why is this really necessary for the UK? Don't you folks have like 1 camera for every 10(or is it 15?) people? Is that not enough? Do you really need more surveillance? Why not better utilize the surveillance you currently have? Why add under utilized surveillance on top of under utilized surveillance? I don't understand. ~Z
  • by starglider29a (719559) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @04:03PM (#30909000)
    Maybe they'll catch a crop circle as it is being made.
  • by JustNiz (692889) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @05:17PM (#30910038)

    >> a much wider range of usage, such as '[detecting] theft from cash machines, preventing theft of tractors and monitoring antisocial driving,'

    Ahh the truth will out. Has there been an country-wide epidemic of tractor thefts recently? Is it practical to use an aircraft that can't hover to surveil ATMs? I think not. Now guess which one they REALLY want drones for.

    I really can't imagine that our wonderful police would generate all those lame excuses just to cover up that they really just want drones as yet another way to generate even more revenue from drivers that momentarily stray over already devisively low speed limits. Surely not.

    When will the police actually go after real criminals instead of finding new and devious ways to repeatedly bully soft targets like us road users?

  • by thegoldenear (323630) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @05:30PM (#30910218) Homepage

    UK Police already have something similar to this in that they've had aeroplanes constantly circling over various cities for the past few years. For example: http://www.gmp.police.uk/mainsite/pages/asu.htm [police.uk] and http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/226/226142_spyplane_warning_over_eid_celebrations.html [manchester...news.co.uk]

  • Is this really it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @05:31PM (#30910236)

    Is this really what my grandad fought to defend with is life in world war 2?

  • Jaywalking? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KitsuneSoftware (999119) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @05:46PM (#30910444) Homepage Journal

    Lots of people are using jaywalking as an example non-crime in these comments. Just so you all know, jaywalking is not generally against UK law; the only places you can't do it are motorways (where anyone going less than 50mph will cause problems), railway crossings while the barrier is down, and small patches of road next to lit pedestrian crossings. Everywhere else, it's your judgement.

    Now, for the technology itself, I think it will help catch a lot of minor criminals, rural fly-tippers, and an unexpectedly large number of farm-animal-fancying zoophiles, but it will have very little effect on organised crime. Why? Dazzle from small lasers. What's the cost of a CD/DVD burner?

    I don't like perfect surveillance - this country has too many laws for any one person to know, so I have no idea if I'm breaking any or not.

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