Scottish police '˜could use drones for covert surveillance'

Police in Scotland could use drones for covert surveillance in some circumstances, a top officer has said.

Officers plan to trial two unmanned aerial vehicles.

Plans are under way to trial two £50,000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to assist in operations such as missing person searches.

But Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne said it would be “ridiculous” if they were not used when secret surveillance could save a life.

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Speaking at the Scottish Police Authority meeting in Dundee on Tuesday, he said: “Our position around the use of UAVs is ordinarily they would be used for overt police work.

“But it would seem ridiculous if our attempts to save a life would be precluded because we said we won’t use them for that (covert work).

“My commitment to you as an authority is that if this becomes regular, sustained use, we will bring that back to you and make that visible.”

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Officers currently have one police helicopter, based in Glasgow, but can sometimes find it difficult to reach parts of the country due to “challenging geography”.

The Air Support Unit has proposed to buy two commercial “off the shelf” drones, basing them in Aberdeen and Inverness.

A report put before the watchdog said drones would help with missing person and criminal searches as well as assisting with maintaining public order.

It is hoped they will increase the ability of air support and reduce costs.

Operations will have to adhere to aviation law as well as permissions granted to Police Scotland by the Civil Aviation Authority.

When the UAVs are to be used covertly, described as only happening “in extremis”, the force will be bound by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

A privacy impact assessment is also to be carried out.