Posted: March 20th, 2017, 12:06pm EDT
The first 24-hour police drone unit is to be launched, amid fears that forces may have to rely on them because of falling officer numbers. The 'flying squad' will pursue suspects, find missing people and help solve murders. Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, national spokesman on drones, predicted forces across Britain would soon be using them as they are cheaper than helicopters and can perform some duties of bobbies on the beat. But the move has prompted privacy concerns and warnings that the technology should 'never be an excuse to cut officers'. Devon and Cornwall Police has advertised for a drone manager to lead its new dedicated unit, which will be launched in the summer and shared with Dorset. Sussex and Surrey are considering whether to set up full-time units. For now, officers in other roles operate drones part-time. In total 21 forces are experimenting with the technology, known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to carry out an array of duties - from everyday search missions to watching over the Duchess of Cambridge on a royal visit and pursuing a lynx that escaped from a zoo. But there are concerns that the relatively cheap remote-controlled devices could lead to officers being cut in future.