For sale: Police UAV, never been used!

A remote control helicopter bought by the Essex Police Authority in May 2008 for £22,000 to carry out aerial surveillance was never licensed and so couldn’t be used. The force is said to be looking for a buyer for the chopper which was meant to ‘spy’ on criminals, illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and large-scale public events.

The ‘spy drone’ was said to be capable of reading number plates from 20,000ft and staying in the air for 15 hours.

At the time, chief inspector Richard Watson of Kent Police – which led the project looking into the use of drones – was quoted as saying: “Unmanned aircraft have the potential to perform a significant role, and it is important to work alongside authorities such as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and companies like BAE Systems to make sure any introduction of these systems is done responsibly.”

He added: “It makes good sense for us all to contribute to it and share the costs and benefits.”

And Andrew Mellors, head of civil autonomous systems at BAE, said: “The partnership is aimed at making the most effective and efficient use of resources, and ensuring drones are introduced into use responsibly.”

But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that while Merseyside and Staffordshire had licensed drones Essex had never asked for a licence.

Essex Police Authority said it had been looking to sell the helicopter but it was having “difficulty contacting the proposed purchaser”.