Britain’s first police drone – a tiny helicopter with a camera – is ready for your closeup.
As if there weren’t enough cameras trained on Britain’s population, police in Merseyside County are field-testing a flying drone equipped with closed-circuit TV cameras. The 1 m-wide, German-built MD4-200 chopper has four whisper-quiet rotors and can fly autonomously at up to 25 km/h using GPS waypoints. It can also be piloted from half a kilometre away with a handheld controller. The drone sends footage to the pilot, via a pair of video eyeglasses, and to a police support vehicle or a control room. Since its battery allows for just 20 minutes of flight, the MD4-200 will be deployed for specific missions, as opposed to ongoing patrols. As part of a task force charged with fighting “antisocial behavior”, its potential duties range from mundane (monitoring traffic jams) to ominous (recording evidence to be used in court).
It isn’t the first time a police agency has tried to surveil citizens using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Last year, the County Sheriff’s department in Los Angeles, California, unveiled a small, birdlike drone, only to have the Federal Aviation Administration ground it. (Some UAV makers are lobbying to have small drones classified as toys, to eliminate the need for permits.) But Britain has fewer airspace restrictions. Once MD4-200 testing wraps up in September, the country’s skies may soon swarm with flying cameras.
– Erik Sofge
ON THE WEB ///
Watch drone’s-eye-view footage from the MD4-200 at