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Armed Robot Drones To Join UK Police Force 311

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-have-30-seconds-to-comply dept.
Lanxon writes "British criminals should soon prepare to be shot at from unmanned airborne police robots. Last month it was revealed that modified military aircraft drones will carry out surveillance on everyone from British protesters and antisocial motorists to fly-tippers. But these drones could be armed with tasers, non-lethal projectiles and ultra-powerful disorienting strobe lighting apparatus, reports Wired. The flying robot fleet will range from miniature tactical craft such as the miniature AirRobot being tested by one police force, to BAE System's new 12m-wide armed HERTI drone as flown in Afghanistan."
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Armed Robot Drones To Join UK Police Force

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  • I wonder if the robot is a cousin of that one...

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/09/07/28/2012218/Londons-Robotic-Fire-Brigade [slashdot.org]

    The one in the TFA seems to have tracks instead of wheels but they seem similar. Same company building them maybe ?

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:32AM (#31096778) Homepage Journal

    The LRAD is a highly directional speaker made of a flat array of piezoelectric transducers, producing intense beam of sound in a 30-degree cone. It can be used as a loudhailer, or deafen the target with a jarring, discordant noise. Some ships now carry LRAD as an anti-pirate measure: It was used to drive off an attack on the Seabourn Spirit off Somalia in 2005.

    I recommend UK people carry rubber bungs to put in their ears, in the case of planetary destruction by Vogons and attack by insane police UAVs.

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:32AM (#31096780) Journal

    British criminals...antisocial motorists

    Last I heard, antisocial motoring was rather annoying, but not actually a crime.

    "Citizens^W Subjects of the Crown, prepare to be coerced into socially approved behaviours!"

    • by xaxa (988988)

      British criminals...antisocial motorists

      Last I heard, antisocial motoring was rather annoying, but not actually a crime.

      Isn't some antisocial behaviour a crime? E.g. disturbing the peace with loud noise at night, which can just as easily be a motorcycle as a PA system.

      Other than the first paragraph, the whole article is speculation worthy of the Daily Mail. Paragraph 2:

      Surveillance is only the start, however. Military drones quickly moved from reconnaissance to strike, and if the British police follow suit, their drones could be armed

      • by delinear (991444)

        Last I heard, antisocial motoring was rather annoying, but not actually a crime.

        Isn't some antisocial behaviour a crime? E.g. disturbing the peace with loud noise at night, which can just as easily be a motorcycle as a PA system.

        True, but then the quote is still wrong to say antisocial motoring when it should say criminal behaviour, otherwise it makes it sound like they're going to be tasering motorists who cut you up at the lights. Which, admittedly, might not be so bad, so long as they wait until they're not driving a heavy piece of machinery before they administer it ;)

  • Timeline (Score:5, Funny)

    by Snarf You (1285360) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:36AM (#31096814)

    February 10 @ 6:43 PM: When Will AI Surpass Human Intelligence? [slashdot.org]
    February 10 @ 9:45 PM: Six-legged Robot Teaches Itself to Walk [slashdot.org]
    February 11 @ 2:24 AM: Armed Robot Drones to Join UK Police Force [slashdot.org]

    In less than 8 hours we have gone from wondering about AI, to robots that have learned how to walk, to robots that are flying around shooting at people. This is all happening much too fast.

  • Hurrah! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zmollusc (763634) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:38AM (#31096824)

    Neato! No longer will a call to the cops that your house has been burgled and there are footprints and fingerprints all over the place result in a response of 'we are too busy to investigate, here's a crime number for your insurance claim'. Now it will be 'we will have a unit over the area within minutes, here's a crime number for your insurance claim'. Still no investigation, but maybe the drone can measure how cars are parked and issue some tickets.

    • Still no investigation, but maybe the drone can measure how cars are parked and issue some tickets.

      It will Stun^h^h^h^hDeafen everybody within a 100 metres radius on the assumption they were involved in the crime. Lucky you!

  • Idiots on parade (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:53AM (#31096904)

    Anything sub-lethal will be childishly easy to defeat, once it's been seen in action a few times. And no doubt the methods used will quickly be adapted by terrorists for Third World use on the more dangerous versions of the drones.

    I sat here for barely a minute and came up with three ways to mislead and confuse the drones that would almost certainly have a high degree of success. And I'm no expert.

    One hint: how will the cops look when they taser a minor who happens to be dressed like the alleged criminal, and how difficult would it be to engineer such a substitution?

    • Anything sub-lethal will be childishly easy to defeat, once it's been seen in action a few times.

      Now you've blown it! They will have to use leathal force on people caught littering! (We knew that was coming, we live here.)

    • by cgenman (325138) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:08AM (#31097010) Homepage

      I sat here for barely a minute and came up with three ways to mislead and confuse the drones that would almost certainly have a high degree of success. And I'm no expert.

      I'm guessing armed robot drones in the UK aren't there to catch Ocean's 11 level criminals. Quelling soccer riots, following fleeing vehicles, traveling along with protest groups... the drones are probably going to replace the more expensive and slower helicopter crews in the UK police force. Most of the time you just need to let people know that the police are watching, and they'll behave. Or they'll panic and run, and be followed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zmollusc (763634)

      I don't understand your hint. I don't know how things work in your area, but round here when cops kill or frame someone it is hushed up by cops and all the evidence is 'lost'. If there is enough of a fuss made, an investigation is held by cops and the results are heavily censored as they are 'not in the public interest'.

      So yeah, if a cop tasers an innocent minor and gets found out, that cop will get suspended on full pay for a few years while an investigation chugs along, then when the fuss has died down an

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by delinear (991444)

        I don't understand your hint. I don't know how things work in your area, but round here when cops kill or frame someone it is hushed up by cops and all the evidence is 'lost'. If there is enough of a fuss made, an investigation is held by cops and the results are heavily censored as they are 'not in the public interest'.

        So yeah, if a cop tasers an innocent minor and gets found out, that cop will get suspended on full pay for a few years while an investigation chugs along, then when the fuss has died down and the not guilty verdict brought in he will be reinstated and get the promotions he missed out on while suspended.

        Worst case, they'll give him the opportunity to resign on full pension [wikipedia.org] and land a lucrative book deal [amazon.co.uk], but yeah, they reserve that for the truly corrupt and incompetent.

    • by Allicorn (175921)

      I sat here for barely a minute and came up with three ways to mislead and confuse the drones that would almost certainly have a high degree of success. And I'm no expert.

      Assuming the designers are also not experts and themselves spent less than your generous minute wondering whether anyone might not want to be blinded/deafened/tasered by their device, then you should be well ahead of the game.

      • by jimicus (737525)

        Assuming the designers are also not experts and themselves spent less than your generous minute wondering whether anyone might not want to be blinded/deafened/tasered by their device, then you should be well ahead of the game.

        Past experience of the British government's uncanny ability with technology suggests that unless these drones can make money by handing out fines, the GP is indeed well ahead of the game.

        • by zmollusc (763634)

          Well, if the drones can stun evildoers for collection by ground forces, just give them a cut of the Information Retrieval Procedure fees collected from the evildoer. Simple.
           

      • It is a pretty safe assumption.

        The history of things like this is a history of failure. The main reason being that these kind of measures tend to be outrageously difficult and expensive to build and put in the field, but relatively cheap and easy to defeat or destroy.

        Take, for example, traffic-light cameras, intended to catch people who run red lights. My city spent something like $150,000.00 for each one. Yet, all it takes is someone in a halloween mask, a long stick, some string, a little duct tape,
        • by mspohr (589790)
          Or...

          You could take this route which is more permanent...

          http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm [speedcam.co.uk]

        • by delinear (991444)

          Note it could also be more cheaply defeated by, for instance, walking into a shopping centre - good luck covering all the exits once you've lost sight of the suspect and they sneak out in a bunch of other people. We'll literally be paying police to play "Where's Wally" - in this case the answer is, "he's the one looking at the camera feed". I wonder what the flight time is on one of those things anyway, I guess you wouldn't have to hide for too long before it returned to base.

          And that's without even conside

    • I see a commenter who's never been tased.
      • by vegiVamp (518171)

        If that implies the assumption that most commenters *have* been tased, you should consider readjusting your expectations about your government and police force.

    • Childishly easy? There is equipment that can protect against directed sound weapons...a huge, bulky, helmet like apparatus that uses several things to block sound.

      There's equipment that can stop tasers...basically a faraday cage around your body.

      Heck, there's equipment that usually stops the low powered bullets used by cops. Just wrap your body in kevlar vests and kevlar pants and handgun bullets won't be able to touch you.

      Now, as you waddle down the street swathed in protective gear, it'll be trivial for

  • by VendettaMF (629699) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:54AM (#31096910) Homepage

    Dammit you guys...

    1984 and Brazil (movie not country) are not bloody HOWTO guides!

  • I think you know where this is going...
  • Game over. :(
  • by NoNeeeed (157503) <slash AT paulleader DOT co DOT uk> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:00AM (#31096950) Homepage

    This is a highly speculative article, assuming that because these drones can carry weapons that they will.

    While I wouldn't put it past the Home Office to want to do this, I'd be surprised if the Police were too keen.

    Here in the UK there is a strange dichotomy, we seem perfectly happy to be watched all the time, but the idea of armed police is an absolute no go.

    Riot police in the UK don't even use water cannon, and rubber bullets haven't been used by british police in decades. There are a few areas which have introduced a handful of Tasers, but these are used by specialist armed response units, not the average bobby on the beat. The idea of launching anything potentially dangerous from the air seem highly unlikely when they don't even use it on the ground.

    Of course that doesn't stop the police from being violent, but when they are it tends to be national news for weeks after. See the death of Ian Tomlinson and the controversial "ketteling" technique used at the demonstrations in the summer for good examples.

    The UK Police are currently trying desperately trying to improve their public image after a lot of bad press from the 2009 demos, and the ongoing harassment of photographers and the abuse of the Section 44 Stop and Search powers. Doing something like this would put them back to square one the moment it goes wrong.

    So while not impossible, this report seemed to be highly speculative and purely designed to get clicks and build paranoia.

    For all their flaws, the UK police are not actually idiots, and in a land where police are not armed, and using a baton in a riot is considered heavy handed, let alone water cannon and rubber bullets, launching Tasers from the sky would be public relations disaster.

    • by sa1lnr (669048)

      "not the average bobby on the beat"

      And when was the last time you saw one of those?

      In my area of North London it's weeks maybe even months between sightings.

      • by NoNeeeed (157503)

        I see quite a few, mixed with those PCSO pretend cops. Although to be fair the PCSOs in our area are pretty good.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by netpixie (155816)

        I walked for an hour in London yesterday and saw absolutely hundreds.

        Everywhere I looked there was another Policeman staring at me. To tell you the truth, it began to worry me after a while.

    • by VShael (62735) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @04:19AM (#31097294) Journal

      Yes, the death of Ian Tomlinson was a horrific example of police brutality out of control. One that would not be out-of-place in a fascist dictatorship. And yes, it was big news for weeks afterwards.

      So was the police murder of Jean Charles de Menezes.

      Remind me again, in each case, who was held responsible for these murders? Do we know their names? Were they jailed?

      The answer is a resounding No in all cases.

      So please, stop telling us we should be giving them the benefit of the doubt, that this report is only to fuel paranoia.

      When it comes to the police in the UK, their own actions have demonstrated that paranoia is necessary and healthy.

    • by delinear (991444) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @04:21AM (#31097306)

      Of course that doesn't stop the police from being violent, but when they are it tends to be national news for weeks after. See the death of Ian Tomlinson and the controversial "ketteling" technique used at the demonstrations in the summer for good examples.

      While I mostly agree with your summary of the likelihood of seeing armed drones, I have to say when it comes to police violence, when it's found out it is national news for weeks after, but how many incidents never get discovered or reported? They even tried to cover up Ian Tomlinson's death for the first couple of days and it's only the advent of camera phones and the video evidence they captured that revealed their lies. How many times has something like this happened in the past and not been discovered - as recently as five years earlier even the truth behind Tomlinson's death would probably have never been revealed, this is a rare case of the surveillance environment coming back to bite the police. No wonder they are so against the public using cameras around them.

    • by rabbitfood (586031) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:05AM (#31097502)

      ...but the idea of armed police is an absolute no go...launching Tasers from the sky would be public relations disaster.

      First, the UK's armed police is significantly on the rise (for the Met, deployments have risen over 50% in six years, despite firearm incidents falling), and they're almost part of the landscape in London. Most of them are still static patrols of high-profile locations, but the Met has been actively planning for routine armed patrols [guardian.co.uk].

      The UK Police also seem immune to legal boundaries - their retention of DNA and the use of 'stop-and-search' have both been ruled illegal, with no discernible effect to date. More worryingly, even in high-profile cases of physical abuse, manslaughter and credit-card fraud, officers have been quietly rewarded rather than disciplined.

      Secondly, they're getting much better at PR. If the Guardian [guardian.co.uk] is right, they started using the spy drones to scour the coast for immigrants: "There is potential for these [maritime] uses to be projected as a 'good news' story to the public rather than more 'big brother'." And, since then, they've been practicing on the BNP [bbc.co.uk] (paradoxically an anti-immigration minority party with a poor reputation).

      It would be utterly wrong to conclude that the UK police are power-hungry, trigger-happy thugs with mental deficiencies, lethal toys, immunity from sanction and slick PR skills. But it would be incautious not to consider the possibility.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:09AM (#31097530) Homepage

      2005 would like its analysis back. Tasers are now being issued and used by street Plod [thisislondon.co.uk] in many [bbc.co.uk] forces [bbc.co.uk].

      How many of the taserings reported above did you read about "for weeks after"? The beauty of taser is that it's the perfect punishment and compliance tool. No big bruises, no lasting damage except in rare cases, where the excuse is always "underlying medical condition".

      (Some) Plod who don't have them say they don't want them. Plod who have them love them, and will never go back. Police PR is about covering up [thisislondon.co.uk] their actions, not about altering them.

    • The idea of launching anything potentially dangerous from the air seem highly unlikely when they don't even use it on the ground.

      Especially after something goes wrong a few times. It is not easy to hit the right thing from an aircraft, so once a few kids/old peopple/obvious innocents have been tasered, or one of these has been flow into a house, it will get very unpopular.

  • But... (Score:2, Funny)

    will the armed robot drones run Linux?
  • it's just another brick in the wall. I can't believe these tactics and tools are the will of the people of the UK. I sincerely hope that if it is not they rein in their government--while they still can.
  • herti-corp

    but more seriously

    BAE is the second largest defense contractor in the world. It got caught doing bribery years back and promised not to do it any more. But of course it did and lied about it. The big bribe lately was a bribe of the Saudis on maybe a 43 billion dollar deal., which is even discussed in the bribee's autobiography.

    Now you might think BAE might get their ticket pulled. But on the brit side, BAE is key to their global strategy and on the usa side, a real investigation of the saudi d

  • . . . a bunch of British MPs abused a system for living expenses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_Parliamentary_expenses_scandal [wikipedia.org]

    . . . especially the guy who used tax payer money to clean the "moat" around his estate . . .

    . . . a drone armed with a Hellfire missile would be appropriate justice for him.

  • Wrong URL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lanxon (1713660) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:57AM (#31097210)
    Nate here from Wired. Somehow the URL Slashdot's pointing to has been truncated. Correct one is: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-02/10/future-police-meet-the-uk's-armed-robot-drones.aspx [wired.co.uk]
  • by lxs (131946) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @04:05AM (#31097232)

    That flying ultra-powerful strobes are perfect for an outdoor rave?

  • after bobbies
    here come robbies
    to catch robbers
    raised with teletubbies

  • by Odinlake (1057938) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:07AM (#31097514)
    on unmaned remote controled vehicles is ultimately the only thing that will deter shoplifters.
  • by dugeen (1224138) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:17AM (#31097572) Journal
    They'll never program robots to have the hatred, malice and spite of real coppers. Maybe a robot could gun down an unarmed man on a tube station platform, but could it convincingly circulate a wholly misleading account of events afterwards? And then, after the inquest, issue a press release basically saying "We don't care, we'll do it again if we feel like it".
  • It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead ... or stopped protesting the government. On a more serious note, why is it that governments and military seems to want to place weapons in the hands of robots? Yes, yes, it is easier to get a robot to fire on the "enemy" (particularly if that enemy is a civilian), but I would very much like to not have a cylon uprising, thank you very much. Asimov had a
  • Before some enterprising young cracker decyphered their radio control signal, took one over and crashed it into the house of commons, preferebly through one of the windows so they could set off the strobe/taser/deafening noise during prime minister's question time.

  • HERTI is not armed (Score:3, Informative)

    by dave420 (699308) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:56AM (#31098086)
    The HERTI is not armed - it is purely reconnaissance. The BAE Fury is the armed version.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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