A senior police officer has suggested that using unmanned drones in UK airspace could provide a cheaper way of fighting crime.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the new National Police Air Service (NPAS), Chief Constable Alex Marshall said: "They can stay up longer, they're cheaper, they can do things that you can't do having people in the air."
It is hoped that the new NPAS system, which will replace localised services with nationwide helicopter bases, will reduce the cost of the service from £63 million to £48 million. However, according to Chief Constable Marshall the cost could be further reduced by introducing remotely-controlled drones.
Rules stipulated by the Civil Aviation Authority currently prevent the use of drones out of line of sight, which would restrict their use in air support.
Home Office minister, Damian Green, reacted cautiously saying: "Drones are like any other piece of kit - where it's appropriate or proportionate to use them then we will look at using them. But they need to be treated the same as any other piece of police equipment or police activity."
Chief Constable Marshall admitted that there is a public debate to be had on the issue, as many citizens may object to the use of drones. He said: "It might be cost effective, you might be able to keep it up longer, but is it acceptable to the citizens of the UK to have them in the air?"