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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spy in the sky

Well it is 26 years late but if these plans by the police come about then George Orwell's nightmare world of constant surveillance will finally have come true.

The Guardian reports that 'Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the ­"routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.'

They say that the arms manufacturer BAE Systems, which produces a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for war zones, is adapting the military-style planes for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police.

They add that five other police forces have signed up to the scheme, which is considered a pilot preceding the countrywide adoption of the technology for "surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering". The stated mission of the South Coast Partnership, a Home Office-backed project, is to introduce drones "into the routine work of the police, border authorities and other government agencies" across the UK:

BAE drones are programmed to take off and land on their own, stay airborne for up to 15 hours and reach heights of 20,000ft, making them invisible from the ground.

Far more sophisticated than the remote-controlled rotor-blade robots that hover 50-metres above the ground – which police already use – BAE UAVs are programmed to undertake specific operations. They can, for example, deviate from a routine flightpath after encountering suspicious ­activity on the ground, or undertake numerous reconnaissance tasks simultaneously.

The surveillance data is fed back to control rooms via monitoring equipment such as high-definition cameras, radar devices and infrared sensors.

What is most worrying is the way this capacity is being introduced into police operations secretly and without any public debate as to its appropriateness. The fact that so much secrecy surrounds the project implies that its intent goes beyond day-to-day policing. This is yet another step towards the erosion of our civil liberties under this Labour government.


How on earth can you say that they are "controversially deployed in Afghanistan".The role of a UAV is to provide early warning of enemy activity. They are fantastic aides to information gathering and as such are an integral element of our combat arms.
They have with no doubt whatsoever saved lives. That is not at all controversial.
I didnt say that, it is a lift from the Guardian article, a fact I have now made clearer with the insertion of quotation marks.
The controversial aspect of the use of "Predator" drones in Afghanistan is their arming. There have been too many instances of "collateral damage" where they have been sent in to destroy targets identified as Taliban.
I wonder why the Guardian chose a picture of a small airship, rather than something like a UAV? The item in the YouTube clip is clearly similar to a UAV lke Predator.
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