New Pandora’s box of ‘personal’ drones that could stalk anyone from Brangelina to your own child
(DAILY MAIL) They could put your mind at ease – or do very much the opposite.
A new arms race is on and it could change everything from the way we parent to how we get our celebrity gossip.
For the technology currently being used by the CIA to ferret out terrorist leaders in the hills of Pakistan is set to arrive in a neighbourhood near you – and there’s nowhere to hide.
Personal drones – smaller, private versions of the infamous Predator – are the next hot technology for people looking to track celebrities, cheating lovers, or even wildlife.
Already Splash News, a paparazzi photo agency, is dreaming of using the drones to chase celebrities around the Hollywood Hills.
The concept is strangely fitting: ‘paparazzi’ comes from an Italian word meaning the buzzing of a mosquito.
Now the metaphor is coming to life. Several personal drones are scheduled for completion next year.
Using the device’s on-board camera and thermal-imaging technology, the operator was able to pick up the suspect through his body heat and direct foot patrols to his location.
It led officers to a 16-year-old youth, who was hiding in bushes alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal, in Litherland, Merseyside.
The drone, which measures 3ft between the tips of its four carbon fibre rotor blades, uses unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology originally designed for military reconnaissance.
The battery-powered device can have a range of cameras attached to its main body, including CCTV surveillance or thermal imaging cameras.
It is designed to hover almost silently above crime scenes and send live footage to officers on the ground, but the unit can also ‘perch and stare’ from a solid platform, allowing the operator to capture hours of footage from a hidden vantage point.
Merseyside Police is one of a handful of forces trying out the devices which, at £40,000 each, are far cheaper to use for small-scale operations than a conventional helicopter.
They have been using the drones for two years, mainly to help in search and rescue operations, to execute drug warrants and to crack down on anti-social behaviour.
The Home Office is now exploring how the craft can be used to give back-up to police, ambulance and fire services.
Spy drones are considered the future of policing, although critics have voiced concerns that they could be a worrying extension of Big Brother Britain.
Last month arms manufacturer BAE Systems said it was adapting military-style UAVs for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police. Documents showed the force hoped to begin using the drones in time for the 2012 Olympics.
But they also indicated that the drones could eventually be used to spy on the civilian population, by rooting out motorists suspected of antisocial driving, for covert urban surveillance and to monitor ‘waste management’ for local councils.