UK citizens believe video-equipped drones in the police force will do more good than harm, according to a study evaluating public opinion on surveillance and personal data breaches.

Despite security and surveillance concerns, most UK citizens surveyed believe video-equipped drones will have a positive impact and see them as a method of reducing anti-social behaviour (49 percent) and improving safety (26 percent), Unisys’ latest report on consumer opinions toward personal data and surveillance found.

Can we expect CCTV enabled drones in the future? ©iStock/Malifor
Can we expect CCTV enabled drones in the future? ©iStock/Malifor

Just 22 percent viewed drones as a physical danger to the public, and 40 percent feared they will compromise privacy if adopted in UK streets, indicative of the balancing act government and private firms need to manoeuvre to maintain trust within the UK.

Drones in UK airports, police forces and the RAF

The positive public reaction to drones corresponds with the technology’s accelerated adoption in the public sector.

Police in UK airports were given the green light to use drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of the UK’s counter-terrorism initiative. A report on the adoption of drones more widely throughout the UK as a policing method is expected to be published by the end of the year, however one council has already been awarded a quarter of a million pounds to expand a drone trial in Sussex and Surrey Police.

Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire College of Policing were awarded £94,056 to purchase and deploy body worn video throughout the police fleet through the same Police Innovation Fund.

West Midlands Police will use Accenture, HP and BT’s assistance to deploy the same technology to the tune of £468,460.

David Cameron visited RAF Waddington last week to announce further commitments on drones and special forces. In a press conference he said his defence chiefs would be looking at how to counteract terrorist threats – including that of ISIS – by investing in “spy planes” and “drones”. 

The announcement came after the Ministry of Defence doubled its drone fleet in 2014. Generally, it keeps its investment and research and development efforts in the UAV space under wraps.

Forbes Gallagher, Account Director Police and Criminal Justice, Unisys, said: “These findings show an interesting British schism around drones. Clearly UK citizens are still conscious of the need to improve their personal security, but many feel drones aren’t the right answer – with a significant proportion actually finding them threatening and invasive. 

“If British law enforcement wants to introduce drones as a mainstream monitoring strategy, there is clearly a lot of work to be done consulting with, and above all reassuring, the British public that it can be done safely and effectively, Gallagher said.

The Unisys Security Insights research is based on online surveys carried out over April 22-23 2015 with 2,006 completed interviews with UK nationals.