UK Government Greases Skids For Fleets of Surveillance Drones Over Cities

( The UK government may introduce a plan to protect women from stalkers and rapists by enabling them to summon a drone using a smartphone app that would send a drone overhead with a powerful spotlight and thermal cameras to deter a potential assailant.

This app-summoning drone system will begin testing on a university campus, but its designers believe it could ultimately take over much of the search and surveillance functions of police helicopters at a fraction of the cost.

The plan, put together by a team of former law enforcement officers and experts with the Civil Aviation Authority, will be submitted for funding through the UK government’s Innovate research program.

Richard Gill, the founder of Drone Defense which developed the drone technology, said trials will begin at Nottingham University. The trials are aimed to gauge whether drones could provide a cheaper, quieter, and more environmentally-friendly alternative to police helicopters.

The plan came about in response to the public outcry that followed the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens in March of last year.

Using artificial intelligence, these Aeroguard drones can be summoned via a smartphone app. The AI system automatically tracks the phone signal and flies the drone 200 feet above the location, arriving within four minutes of being summoned. The drone is monitored from a control room by a qualified pilot who can take over operations if needed.

Once overhead, the drone would shine a spotlight on a potential attacker while filming the suspect for future prosecution.

According to Richard Gill, the objective is to prove that drones are capable of providing support at a fraction of the cost of police helicopters and can respond in minutes “rather than tens of minutes.”

To deploy a police helicopter costs up to £3,200 an hour and requires up to five crewmembers. Helicopters have similar surveillance cameras as drones, but they are noisier and require aviation fuel rather than electricity.

And while helicopters fly faster and remain airborne longer than drones, the developers believe drones would be capable of reaching their destination within four minutes rather than the average 20 minutes required by helicopters.