Next Big Thing – police drones

The US is getting drone spies in 90 days – it’s only a matter of time before the UK is similarly swarmed

What’s a drone? Like a robot slave?

Yes, of sorts. In this case it’s a quadrocopter armed with a camera – and there are going to be lots of them. It’s a US$5.9bn industry that was previously prevented by law from taking to the skies. Now, a new law means that US police can hover their 4.4lb drones up to 400ft at any time, in any place. It also means that drones will become big business.

What, the police are going to sell their footage?

No but estate agents are going to use drones to create sweeping videos of properties for better sales. In fact anybody can fly a drone, opening up a whole can of invasive worms that the US government doesn’t seem to care about. Police will soon be following suspects, checking traffic and even – from 2015, when the law's extended – hovering at 30,000ft, watching over events, unseen. Creepy.

That’s not too scary really, it’s like CCTV.

Sure, for now. But there are currently plenty of pounds and dollars being spent on weaponising the drones. It might just be tear gas, tasers and stun guns for now – but it's a slippery slope. More scary still is the thought of the paparazzi getting access to drones – Z-list celebs will be all over the internet more than ever.

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