Back from the battlefield: domestic drones in the UK

Back from the battlefield: domestic drones in the UK aims to contribute to the public debate on the use of drones within the UK.

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Co-published by Statewatch and Drone Wars UK, the report examines the use of drones use by both public and private bodies. The main body of the research examines the use of drones by police forces and border control authorities and argues that public discussion and debate is needed before the use of drones - in particular for surveillance purposes - becomes widespread.

Due to a lack of safety guarantees and regulatory framework the use of drones in the UK remains limited, particularly amongst public authorities, although there are moves to introduce them more widely. Use by law enforcement authorities remains limited, although evidence gathered for the report suggests that the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the predecessor to the National Crime Agency, may have acquired the use of drone technology in late 2012.

Currently it is private companies dealing with surveying, mapping, photography, filming and safety inspection that use the vast majority of drones licensed for operation within UK airspace. However, as technology develops and becomes more widely available this is likely to change, and various attempts are being made to drive this development and capitalise on what is perceived as a significant market for 'civil' drones.

The report examines, in turn: law and regulation surrounding the use of domestic drones, in particular as regards surveillance; funding from UK and EU institutions aimed at the development of drone technology and regulation; the use of drones by police forces; the use of drones for border control purposes; and the use of drones by private companies and individuals.

Co-published in 27 May 2013 by Statewatch and Drone Wars UK.

Sources and documentation

This page contains links to a selection of reports and documentation used as sources for the report Back from the battlefield: domestic drones in the UK. It lists reports and analyses produced by NGOs, official policy documents, and documents released by the police in response to Freedom of Information requests along with other official documents such as presentations. The report also references dozens of news articles, press releases and other material not reproduced here.

The full report and its annexes are available online here, or you can order hard copies.

Reports, analysis and policy
Air Navigation: The Order and the Regulations Civil Aviation Authority January 2010
Autonomous Systems: Opportunities and Challenges for the UK Aerospace, Aviation & Defence Knowledge Transfer Network 30 June 2012
Background note on the civil use of drones in the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones June 2013
Borderline: The EU's New Border Surveillance Initiatives Ben Hayes and Matthias Vermeulen June 2012
Briefing to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones Sam Smith (Privacy International) June 2013
Eurodrones, Inc. Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Toepfer February 2014
Freedom from Suspicion: Surveillance Reform for a Digital Age JUSTICE October 2011
Guns, Debt and Corruption: Military spending and the EU crisis Frank Slijper April 2013
NeoConOpticon Ben Hayes 2009
Shelling Out: UK Government Spending on Unmanned Drones Drone Wars UK September 2012
Surveillance Camera Code of Practice UK Home Office June 2013
The Aerial Gaze: Regulating Domestic Drones in the UK Lachlan Urquhart March 2013
The Manufacture of "Surveillance by Consent" No CCTV March 2013
The UK Approach to Unmanned Systems UK Ministry of Defence March 2011
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Aerial Systems Briefing Big Brother Watch June 2013
Unmanned Aircraft System Operation in UK Airspace - Guidance Civil Aviation Authority August 2011
Responses to FOI requests/official documents


Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales (ACPO)
ACPO Unmanned Aerial Systems Steering Group
24 February 2010: Agenda | Minutes 8 June 2010: Agenda | Minutes
15 September 2010: Agenda | Minutes 5 May 2011 Agenda | Minutes
12 October 2011: Agenda | Minutes 16 May 2012: Agenda | Minutes
9 October 2012: Agenda | Minutes 13 June 2013: Agenda | Minutes
29 August 2013: Letter in response to FOI request  
ACPO/Home Office
Alan Brooke, ACPO Operational Requirement for UAS
Alan Brooke, Emergency Services Applications
Other documents
Alan Featherstone, Letter requesting information on a single point of contact (SPOC) for UAS, 26 June 2012
Draft terms of reference for police unmanned aerial systems (UAS), undated
Police forces: England
Avon & Somerset
Response to FOI request, 7 November 2013
Compilation of FOI requests and responses, 2012
Chief Office Group Minutes, 25 March 2011
Responses to FOI requests: 16 August 201328 December 20126 June 201213 July 2009
Responses to FOI requests: 8 August 201323 October 201231 August 201228 May 2012
Responses to FOI requests: 5 August 20131 November 20127 September 20128 June 201230 January 201213 January 2011
City of London
Response to FOI request, 14 August 2013
Response to FOI request, 16 August 2013
Response to FOI request, 9 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 5 September 20136 August 2013
Devon & Cornwall
Response to FOI request, 12 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 24 September 2013undated 2012
Minutes of the force executive board meeting, 11 March 2009
Response to FOI request, 1 August 2013
Police Authority/Finance & Audit Committee minutes, 13 February 2012
Finance & Audit Committee minutes: 19 September 201119 May 200817 March 2008
Responses to FOI requests: August 2013November 2012
Greater Manchester
Response to FOI request, August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 8 September 2013undated 2012
Response to FOI request, 25 July 2013
Response to FOI request, 15 August 2013
Response to FOI request, 16 August 2013
Strategic Independent Advisory Group minutes, 25 January 2010
Response to FOI request, 14 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 13 August 20139 February 20121 January 2011
Response to FOI request, 15 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 2010 (undated)2012a (undated)2012b (undated)2012c (undated)September 2013September 2013 additional documents
Business Management Group minutes, 1 January 2009
Metropolitan Police Service
Responses to FOI requests: 2012a (undated)2012b (undated)22 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: January 2011January 2012June 2012December 201314 August 2013
North Yorkshire
Responses to FOI requests: January 2011May 201211 August 2013
Response to FOI request, 11 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 7 June 201110 September 201213 December 20131 May 20135 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 28 September 20123 January 20137 May 20138 August 2013
South Yorkshire
Responses to FOI requests: 30 January 20121 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 15 August 201318 September 2013
Annual reports: 20092010
Responses to FOI requests: 2011 (undated)2012 (undated)August 2013
Response to FOI request, September 2013
Thames Valley
Response to FOI request, 13 August 2013
Responses to FOI requests: 2009 (undated)14 August 2013
West Mercia
Responses to FOI requests: 2011 (undated)2 August 2013
West Midlands
Response to FOI request, 30 August 2013
West Yorkshire
Responses to FOI requests: 28 August 200924 February 20111 August 201218 October 201218 September 2013
Response to FOI request: 15 August 2013
Wiltshire and Swindon Local Resilience Forum: Exercise Equinox, 26th and 27th September 2008 debrief report, January 2009
Police forces: Wales
Responses to FOI requests: 2011 (undated)2012a (undated)2012b (undated)2012c (undated)14 August 2013
Response to FOI request, 7 August 2013
North Wales
Responses to FOI requests: 15 July 200926 January 20115 August 2013
South Wales
Responses to FOI requests: 3 February 201226 June 201220 September 201219 August 2013
Police forces: Scotland
Police Scotland
Response to FOI request, 15 August 2013
Police forces: Northern Ireland
Police Service of Northern Ireland
Responses to FOI requests: 2009 (undated)2012a (undated)2012b (undated)3 September 2013
Police forces: non-geographic
British Transport Police
Responses to FOI requests: 2012 (undated)August 2013
Civil Nuclear Constabulary
Responses to FOI requests: 2012 (undated)26 July 2013
Port of Dover Police
Response to FOI request, 24 July 2013
National Crime Agency (formerly the Serious Organised Crime Agency)
Tender documents related to SOCA's signing of a contract with Selex Galileo (see report chapter 'Secret surveillance?'):
Border control
South Coast Partnership
Documents released following FOI requests, 2010:
3i project
EU funding: List of the beneficiaries of all calls for proposals cofinanceed by the European Regional DEvelopment Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG IV A 2 Seas crossborder cooperation Programme, 4 May 2012
3i 'kick off' event, 21 June 2012: program and presentation
Summary of principles, September 2012
Home Office
Response to FOI request, 27 August 2013

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