In Brief

Drones being used 'to harass people and commit crime'

Police warn that unmanned drones are already being used for 'nefarious purposes'

Unmanned drones are raising privacy and security concerns as police warn that they are "undoubtedly" already being used to commit crimes, including harassment.

Chief Inspector Nick Aldworth of the Metropolitan Police has warned that the devices could be used in a "reckless" or "malicious" way, reports to the BBC.

He was addressing a House of Lords inquiry into the growing civilian use of drones and claimed that the aircraft were being flown into restricted airspace. "The concerns are really around the fact that we are seeing this technology being used for criminal conduct," Aldworth said.

As there are no criminal privacy laws, the inquiry is working to establish how existing legislation could be applied to control their use. For example, laws banning voyeurism could be used if surveillance drones were "hovering outside people's bedrooms for whatever nefarious reasons".

Aldworth warned that police face a huge task in attempting to identify offenders in cases where a drone "whizzes past your window and catches something that you would rather it didn't catch", and then disappears.

Currently, drones that weigh less than 20kg can be used by anyone, as long as they remain within the operator's line of sight and with relevant permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Owners are required to request permission from the CAA if they plan to fly the aircraft on a commercial basis or fly a camera fitted aircraft within congested areas or near private properties.

Last month, a separate report issued a similar warning about the criminal use of drones. The research, led by Sir David Omand, a former head of the UK's intelligence centre, GCHQ, highlighted the risk of the devices being used in terrorist attack.

"Crowds at sporting events or rallies could be vulnerable in a similar way if a future terrorist group were to look for means of dispersing chemical or biological agents," it said, according to the BBC.

The use of unmanned drone is expected to become more widespread  as their popularity grows and prices continue to fall

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