Unprecedented security arrangements, including drones equipped with surveillance cameras that will roam the skies of the capital, will be in place for the London 2012 Olympics.
According to the Independent, the Scotland Yard is understood to have spoken to the Civil Aviation Authority over the use of small radio-controlled devices in order to keep a watchful eye over the mega event.
Though the Met Police already has three Eurocopter EC145 helicopters in Essex, from the force's Air Support Unit, the officers want to monitor multiple events during the Olympics using extra capacity-providing smaller drones. In Straffordshire, police officers still use drones consisting of a remote-controlled helicopter equipped with cameras. However, at least in three constabularies - Essex, Merseyside and British Transport Police - the surveillance drones are said to have been used. But the use of drones has not been well received, according to reports.
One source for the Essex Police told the newspaper that the force had kept the drones in a warehouse for almost a year because of the high costs. The British Transport Police too did not purchase a drone despite conducting a short trial. The Merseyside Police, which purchased a £13,000 helicopter drone fitted with surveillance cameras, used it for four years. However, the helicopter landed in the river Mersey due to malfunction and was not found, the report said.
"The force has since received compensation from its insurers to cover the cost of the vehicle," a spokesperson told the Independent. "It has since decided not to purchase a new unit because of "operational issues including staff training costs and the inability to use the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] in all weather conditions," the report said.
Last week, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond suggested in Parliament that surface-to-air missiles could be deployed. It was also reported that RAF snipers will keep watch over the events.
However, there hasn't been a clear confirmation yet on the extra surveillance devices and the defence weapons to be used by the security officials at the Olympics.
A source from the Met Police told the newspaper: "Any force that wants to use drones inside a danger area have to get permission. It means built-up areas, places where people gather en masse like a stadium, or anywhere near flight paths." However, the use of drones during the 2012 Olympic Games has not been "confirmed or denied" yet.
With a view to running the largest ever security operation, the Met Police recently had a discussion on the safe use of drones without compromising the air safety.
Meanwhile, the newspaper has quoted another police source as saying that the use of surveillance drones was not a high priority. Even after receiving the nod of National Police Air Service for provision for helicopters to any police force, the decision has not gone down too well reportedly because of the bloody history of unmanned drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to hunt down terrorists. "Surveillance drones are not very high up on our priority list," the source said. "They tend to be quite pricey and require a huge amount of training."