The Lancashire Evening Post reports that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued new guidelines which allow police officers to fly drones at a higher altitude and closer to members of the public than normal regulations allow. This helps British forces track people who are ignoring Covid-19 social distancing and lockdown rules.
Under the new measures, officers can fly drones at an altitude of up to 500 metres rather than the normal limit of 400 with craft weighing under 2kg to be flown within 10 metres of people and heavier ones 20 metres. The usual minimum distance is 50 metres.
Drones must normally be kept within direct sight of the operator, but the new measures mean they can be flown beyond that if a “competent observer” is deployed.
Police forces have always had the ability to fly drones outside the limits of the CAA’s rules, but the move by the regulator means they have been given a blanket exemption.
The document outlining the new flight limits state: “This exemption is only applicable for use in the support of the police response in enforcing the Government restrictions placed on the public as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Surrey Police deployed a “sky talk” drone on Friday morning in Walton-on-Thames to break up a group of 30 people not abiding to social distancing regulations while Derbyshire Police were criticised recently for filming walkers with drones to deter visitors to the Peak District.
Although police chiefs have said the majority of the public are adhering to the lockdown rules, a small minority are not. Police in Greater Manchester, for example, reported over 1,000 incidents of people having house parties and other gatherings in the area over the Easter weekend.
Yet, British police have been far more relaxed than their Indian counterparts, for example, where Indians seen flouting the social gathering or lockdown laws are attacked by batons. There are increasing incidents where some members of the public have been killed this way including one man who was walking to his local shop to buy a pint of milk.
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