Chief Constable calls for debate on use of drones to police skies

PLAN Hampshire police chief constable Alex Marshall. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (102836-16)
PLAN Hampshire police chief constable Alex Marshall. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (102836-16)
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HAMPSHIRE’s top police officer is calling for a debate on the use of unmanned drone aircraft to police Britain’s skies.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall spoke out at the National Police Air service launch – a project he is leading for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Mr Marshall says the drones can stay in the air longer and would cost less than running manned aircraft: ‘They can stay up longer, they’re cheaper, they can do things you can’t do having people in the air,’ he said.

‘But the Civil Aviation Authority for example, doesn’t allow the use of drones out of line of sight, and there are other restrictions on using them.

Plus the debate that still needs to be had, it might be costs effective, you might be able to keep it up longer, but is it acceptable to the citizens of the UK to have them in the air?’

Mr Marshall spoke as the first phase of National Police Air Service was rolled out in the south east.

The move means there will be 24-hour police air support across the country for the first time, in a move that will see the number of aircraft slashed from 31 to 25.

Concerns have been raised about coverage, but Mr Marshall says the service will save Hampshire police about £331,000 a year and should not affect response times.

The force is set to fork out about £850,000 a year on the service.

Our area is to be serviced by three aircraft, at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, Redhill in Surrey and Bournemouth.

Speaking at Redhill Aerodrome about the use of drones, Damian Green, Home Office minister, said: ‘Drones are like any other piece of kit – where it’s appropriate or proportionate to use them then we will look at using them.

‘But they need to be treated the same as any other piece of police equipment of police activity.

‘They should only be used when it is appropriate and proportionate to do so.’