The Garda is considering the use of robotic drones that could be deployed on covert surveillance flights or to overtly aid other police work. The Irish Times understands the purchase of a number of drones is “under consideration” at Garda headquarters.
The move, which would be seen as controversial in some quarters, would be the first time the force has used the unpiloted aerial vehicles.
The Defence Forces have been using drones for some years. On foreign missions they have been flown over vast areas to assess the movement of refugees fleeing trouble spots, or the movement of rebel forces into areas under the control of Irish troops.
News that using drones is under consideration by the Garda follows revelations following a Freedom of Information request that the PSNI has been using three drones.
It is unclear when introduction of the drones in the Republic might happen or what type of police work they would be used for.
Drones could be used discreetly to monitor sites where gardaí believe dissident republicans were storing weapons, or holding training sessions or meetings.
Drones could also be used to monitor isolated areas where gardaí believe fuel smugglers were operating or criminals were storing drugs or other contraband.
They could be used to track suspect vehicles over long distances, especially into rural areas where any cars following would be easily seen.
The use of drones for surveillance purposes would likely be opposed by civil rights groups, who would highlight the threat to privacy.
In the US, drones have been used to aid searches for missing persons, especially in the sea or in rivers.
They have been used to take photographs of evidential value when serious traffic collisions occur.
Severe weather such as snow or flooding has also been assessed abroad by police forces using drones.
In recent years Garda helicopters have been used to monitor the build-up of crowds and traffic after major entertainment events such as concerts and football matches.
The aircraft is expensive to fly and maintain, and drones could be used for the same purpose at a much cheaper cost to the State.
It would also be possible for the Garda to have access to drones in different parts of the State and to use them simultaneously, an option not available when using helicopters.
In other jurisdictions, drones have been deployed during dangerous pursuits on the roads, with police cars backing off and allowing the aerial vehicles to take over the chase.
This has lessened the dangers of continuing with a high speed chase, especially in urban areas and when it is suspected those being pursued are armed.
Source: The Irish Times