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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Pilotless police drone takes off
The drone sends images to a police control room
The UK's first police remote control helicopter has taken off.

Merseyside police are using the "spy drone", fitted with CCTV cameras, mainly for tackling anti-social behaviour and public disorder.

The machine is 1m wide, weighs less than a bag of sugar, and can record images from a height of 500m.

Originally used by the military, it is due to be operational by June for a full three-month trial, which is the "first of its kind" in the UK.

The drone will also be used for monitoring traffic congestion and investigations are to be made into its possible role in firearms operations.

The machines, which are flown by remote control or using pre-programmed GPS navigation systems, are silent and can be fitted with night-vision cameras.

For us this is a cost effective way of catching criminals
Ass Ch Con Simon Byrne
Merseyside Police

The images they record are sent back to a police support vehicle or control room.

Merseyside's assistant chief constable Simon Byrne said: "We're always looking at ways of putting more officers on the streets, and maximising technology is a powerful way of achieving this.

"Our drone will be used primarily to support our anti-social behaviour taskforce AXIS, in gathering all important evidence to put offenders before the courts.

"For us, this is a cost-effective way of helping to catch criminals and supports similar technology we're already using in our vans and helicopter."

The force has been assisted by the Police, Crime and Standards Directorate.

Deputy director, Stephen Cahill, said: "We are pleased to support Merseyside Police in their efforts to reduce crime through the use of new technology.

"This trial is the first of its kind in the country and we're excited about its potential."

Annotated image labeling components of police drone
Rotor blades: Four 37cm (15ins) carbon fibre blades mounted on ends of lightweight arms
Antenna: Picks up signal from remote control handset and transmits images to controller
Camera: Operates at up to 500m (1,640ft), with option for infra red images
Central drum: Houses GPS system, which can be used to fly drone, a rechargable battery and other key electronics
Remote control: Used to fly the drone and operate the camera
Video glasses: Allow 'pilot' to see what is being filmed and to operate the drone when out of direct sight
Weight: Under 900g (2lbs)
Size: 70cm (28ins) across
Flying time: Over 20 minutes
Noise: Less than 65 decibels at 3m
Take off: Vertical

The police's remote drone in action

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