Google could use spy drones for UK mapping

UAV

Search giant reported to have bought unmanned vehicles for mapping research

Google could be allowed to use unmanned spy drones in the UK to gather information for its Google Maps and Street View services.

The news follows reports that the web giant had ordered at least one drone from German company Microdrones, which has supplied unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to UK police and special forces.

"The drones are well suited to deliver up-to-date image material for Google Maps," Microdrones CEO Sven Juerss told business publication Wirtschafts Woche.

Whether Google would be allowed to deploy such a system in the UK would depend on clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority, but initial reactions from the body suggest it would consider such a request seriously and that the drone could be cleared providing the device was not a threat to public health.

“Any systems like this would need CAA approval, particularly if it was a new system that we hadn't seen before, [as] we didn't know how safe the device was,” a spokesperson for the CAA told PC Pro. “The prime consideration would be over safety and if it is a system that we have already approved that would be taken into account.”

Microdrones has already been allowed to supply the Merseyside police with unmanned aerial vehicle security systems, so safety concerns are unlikely to cause a problem for Google.

However, the CAA would also consider other concerns, including the actual use of the device.

“A lot would depend on the purpose," the spokesperson said. "For example, a celebrity wedding might attract special attention, and the area that it planned to fly in might make a difference, but if the UAV was safe then we would consider allowing use."

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