Lou (9 March 2011)
"The spies in the skies"
The spies in the skies: Big Brother will soon be watching from unmanned drones shaped like birds and insects
The skies could soon be filled with the buzzing of thousands of tiny
spy drones trained to snoop on British streets, the Home Office has
They are one of a number of futuristic snooping techniques that could
become reality including CCTV that recognises faces and cameras in the
back of taxis.
The warning comes as the Pentagon revealed it is pumping hundreds of
millions of dollars into new drone technology such as the
'nano-hummingbird' - a tiny remote helicopter equipped with video and
audio equipment that can record sights and sounds.
Ministers said that advances in technology have meant such hi-tech
measures are now possible and could soon be ubiquitous across the
The suggestions came in a proposed code of practice drawn up to help
regulate the spread of CCTV, that will be overseen by a newly appointed
Security Camera Commissioner.
The consultation document, revealed by the Daily Telegraph, stated that
traditional CCTV was of 'limited value' to police because images are
often too grainy to identify suspects or badly placed.
It said: 'Modern digital technology is on the cusp of revolutionising the use of CCTV.
The consultation said powerful zoom features, 360-degree vision and
facial recognition 'are coming closer to being an established part of
the CCTV landscape'.
It continued: 'New uses for systems, for example in taxis, are a natural part of industry growth.'
And of the possibility of launching unmanned drones into the sky, it
said: 'There is scope for their unchecked proliferation and attendant
risks if they are not considered within any overarching strategy.'
Under the proposed code, police and councils will have to explain exactly why they want to place a camera in a certain place.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham last year blasted Britain
for becoming a surveillance state where snooping techniques were
advancing so quickly that regulators were unable to keep up.
But the Home Office's most recent paper will only bolster fears that
Britain is turning into a Big Brother state, despite the Coalition
Government vowing to clamp down on the expansion of snooping techniques
and restore civil liberties.
Britain is one of the most watched countries in the world with one CCTV camera for every 14 people.
But despite this, police admit that just one crime is solved for every 1,000 cameras.
Campaign group Big Brother Watch director Daniel Hamilton praised the paper as a 'step in the right direction'.
He told the Daily Telegraph: 'For far too long, the police have been
able to operate with impunity, scarcely giving any consideration for
'Today's warning serves as a real shot across the bows. People want to
see more officers on the beat, not costly gimmicks like clip-on cameras
and spy drones.'
The U.S. government has announced plans to develop tiny drones and large unmanned aerial systems for its armed forces.
Many are inspired by nature and are designed to look like birds, so
they blend seamlessly into the sky, such as the nano-hummingbird by
California-based technology firm AeroVironment.
But there are larger models too, such as the 'Global Observer', an
unmanned aircraft that can fly continuously for up to a week at an
altitude of up to 65,000ft and can reach any point on the globe within
hours of take-off.
They claim they could be used by the military to spy, but also to find
people trapped inside buildings destroyed by a major earthquake, like
the one most recently that devastated the New Zealand city of