Merseyside Police's toy 'Copper Chopper', which has been in service since last November has come a cropper. Last week a fanfare of publicity hailed the arrival of the radio controlled eye in the sky when it was used to catch a car thief in dense fog, however the Civil Aviation Authority has noticed the publicity and pointed out that the thief takers are in fact law breakers.
The drone is a £40,000 remote control helicopter fitted with a CCTV, which has been designed with police and military surveillance in mind. Since January 1st drones weighing under 15lb (7kg) need CAA permission to fly within 164ft (50m) of people and within 492ft (150m) of buildings. Merseyside Police failed to get the correct licences and the vehicle has been grounded.
What concerns me is that flying radio control aircraft in open ground has from time to time resulted in fatalities when control has been lost or power has failed. Flying aircraft in built up areas increases the possibility of a control loss accident and where their are people about the risk of a fatality. Bearing in mind just how easy it would be to jam a low power remote control unit I think the risk makes its use unacceptable unless the situation is life threatening, such as in a siege situation. I just hope the CAA see it the way I do.
Looking at pictures of the drone on the BBC's web site makes me wonder how it cost so much. I have seen a US amateurs aerial photographs and video using a radio control helicopter fitted with a webcam and a 23cms transmitter, which include infra red night shots and they are superb, it cost him a little over £400 to build, which is a long way clear of the £40,000 Merseyside police forked out from what the tax payers stumped up.
If you want a Drone of your own you can buy a similar thing that can be controlled from an iPhone from Parrot.