By Chris Stonor
All around the UK, drone deployment by police forces is on a rapid increase, where, for example, the West Country’s Avon and Somerset Constabulary saw a 47.3% increase of unmanned craft use, according to statistics obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, reports thecanary.co.
The figures were requested as part of a research project by Shoal Collective, coordinated through the European Network of Corporate Observatories (ENCO).
Urban Air Mobility News highlighted last week the Lancashire Constabulary which again shows a dramatic and rapid increase of drones by UK police forces.
UAMN Recent Article on the Lancashire Constabulary Increasing Use of Drones:
While, Devon & Cornwall and Dorset Police jointly became the first two constabularies to use drones in November 2015, presently, of the 48 police forces around the UK, perhaps, only two, the City of London and West Mercia, do not either keep or operate drones.
Tethered Drone to Monitor Crowds and Demonstrations
In the first 6 months of 2020, there were more than 5,500 overt uses of the craft by the police around the UK. In addition, a survey carried out by dronewars.net earlier this year, suggested a number of forces are using drones for covert surveillance operations too. Currently, the UK police hold or use close to 300 drones.
Meanwhile, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary deployed drones 103 times during the first six months of 2020, therefore, close to a daily usage. The Force explained it employs drones for a broad range of reasons including :Public safety and management of crowded spaces”, “Crime scene search and recording” and “Firearms support”.
On a national level, drones have been used to police UK political protests as well as to enforce the UK’s coronavirus lockdown. Shoal Collective has conducted interviews that indicate drones were used to monitor the 2019 Power Beyond Borders protest camp and a 2020 Kurdistan solidarity demonstration. Badger cull saboteurs also told Shoal that drones were deployed during previous culls. And drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras were employed by West Midlands Police and Greater Manchester Police to monitor raves during August.
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual – Popular UK Police Drone
Meanwhile, the UK’s National Police Air Service (NPAS) is considering purchasing a much larger Hermes 900 drones from Israeli company Elbit, which has previously been deployed in a weaponised context over the skies of Gaza. One of the justifications given by the Home Office for considering these craft is their potential deployment in monitoring demonstrations.
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise is one of the more popular drone models currently employed by UK police. It costs “around UKP2800, weighs less than a kilogram, and has a 29-minute battery life with an operating range of 5km“, according to an article in Politics Home. By contrast, the Israeli Hermes 900 drone “has a 15-metre wingspan, weighs 970kg and can fly for up to 36 hours at altitudes of 30,000 ft“.
The British Maritime and Coastguard Agency has also awarded a drone demonstration and development contract worth nearly UKP1m to Elbit for Hermes 900 drones. Palestinians are calling for a boycott of Elbit products because, they claim, of their use in “oppressing and killing Palestinians.”
For more information