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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 September 2006, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Drone planes could patrol the sea
A prototype of the Mosquito micro drone
Surveillance craft range from miniature to the size of a small jet
Pilotless aircraft may be used some time in the future to check on trawlers fishing illegally in the North Sea.

David McCandless of the North East Sea Fisheries Committee said they were considering the use of the robotic planes - also known as drones.

He said: "They would save vast amounts of money on patrol vessels."

Drones are currently banned for civilian use because of collision risk with other aircraft but BAE Systems said it was working to overcome this.

Iraq and Afghanistan

Mr McCandless said illegal fishing reduced the price paid to fishermen for fish stocks and had a negative impact on the local economy.

Drones would be an economical way of keeping a check on illegal activities, he added.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (AEVs) have long been used by the military in war zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

The technology is now being adapted for domestic use and could eventually revolutionise the way law enforcement agencies carry out surveillance and rescue operations.

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