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Cops with drones: UK police set to use UAVs in ‘high-risk’ siege operations

Cops in the UK could soon be operating drones as part of their duties after police chiefs decided the technology presents a real opportunity for aiding certain types of operations.

Remotely controlled copters could be used in “high-risk” situations such as sieges, as well as in missing-person searches and crowd monitoring, according to the Times.

The report added that senior police view the technology as “an efficient alternative to helicopters, police dogs and, in some cases, officers themselves.”

Related: Cops foil drone plot to carry drugs and porn into Maryland prison

Steve Barry, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) spokesperson on drones, told the Times that UK police had tested five Aeryon SkyRanger quadcopters in a range of scenarios. The machine, which the company claims has been “designed to military and government specifications,” can fly for up to 50 minutes on a single charge, handle difficult weather conditions, and be deployed “in seconds.”

Barry described how remotely controlled UAVs with live streaming capabilities were found to be “efficient and effective” for searching areas for suspects or for gaining a better understanding of a siege situation before deciding what action to take.

To allay privacy concerns, Barry said drone operators would have to be certain about “the purpose and legitimacy” of using a UAV as part of a police operation.

Related: Anti-drone shoulder rifle lets police take control of UAVs with radio pulses

In a statement to ArsTechnica, the NPCC said trials are ongoing while the police service develops national guidance for the use of drones.

“Their operation is governed by Civil Aviation Authority regulations, as well as local restrictions concerning the use of drones at airports, major road networks and sea ports,” the NPCC said, adding that it was liaising with the UK government to find out if a fleet of remotely controlled copters could “enhance operational capability in law enforcement and counter terrorist work, including support for emergency response or for public order events.”

The UK’s cops certainly aren’t the first to look into how drones might help in their work. Police in Japan recently unveiled a net-wielding drone designed to take down rogue UAVs flying in restricted areas, while last year we learned of a pepper-spraying flying machine in India designed to disperse crowds of unruly protestors. In the U.S., meanwhile, a bill amendment in North Dakota last August allowed cops to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons such as tear gas, sound cannons, and tasers.