Vulnerable women who are walking home at night could be protected from predators by high-tech drones under plans to be submitted to the Government.
The AeroGuard drones would use AI technology and be fitted with a powerful spotlight and thermal cameras in order to scare off would-be attackers.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, a woman who is in fear of an attack would be able to use an app to summon the drone which would then arrive within four minutes.
The design has been put together by a team of former police officers and Civil Aviation Authority experts and will be submitted as part of an application for funding as part of the Government’s Innovate research programme.
Drone Defence, the company behind the technology, said the drones, which will cost £35,000, will be trialled at Nottingham University to protect students and staff on campus.
The company, which is preparing plans to submit to the Home Office, says the solution would be much more cost-effective than using police helicopters and could do 80 per cent of the same tasks.
A drone company is preparing plans to submit to the Government which would see the development of a drone designed to protect vulnerable women walking at night (file image)
In a promotional video for the technology, the company says it is estimated 50 per cent of women and one in seven men feel unsafe walking alone at night in a quiet street near their home.
A voiceover adds: ‘To tackle antisocial behaviour, sexual and violent crimes on our streets, we are looking to develop an automated emergency response capability using drones.
‘These drones could be placed on the roof of a police station and could be called to an incident by a mobile phone app.
‘We have the technology which would safely deploy a drone with a thermal camera over a vulnerable person within minutes of being called.
‘This drone would then flood lights and record the scene, streaming the footage to a control room and act as a deterrent to an opportunistic attacker.’
It adds that this kind of technology has not been deployed ‘anywhere in the world’ and that there are regulatory hurdles to overcome.
The firm says drones could be used tackle antisocial behaviour, sexual and violent crimes by allowing users to raise an alert via an phone app which would trigger an emergency response
Once the alert is received, a drone could be in the area ‘in minutes’, Drone Defence has said
Company founder Richard Gill said the use of drones could ultimately take over up to 80 per cent of the functions currently performed by police helicopters.
Former army intelligence officer Mr Gill told the Telegraph: ‘We aim to get a prototype off the ground in Nottingham for £500,000.
‘It is a high capability drone that costs just £100 an hour but can do 80 per cent of what a police helicopter can do.
‘It cannot do high speed pursuits but it can do the other tasks such as searching for people and ground surveillance.
‘It will take about a year to put together as a proof of concept that drones can provide support for people at a fraction of the cost in minutes rather than tens of minutes.’
The drone will also be equipped with artificial intelligence which will automatically track the phone signal from 200ft in the air.
The company behind the idea, Drone Defence, believes their design and concept could be more efficient and cost-effective for police forces than using a police helicopter (file image)
It will be monitored from a control room by a qualified pilot who will be ready to take over if needed.
The team came up with the idea following widespread public outcry over the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by then serving police officer Wayne Couzens.
Couzens abducted Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
The killer used Covid powers to conduct a fake arrest of the 33-year-old marketing executive as she walked home, before committing crimes so horrific they shocked the nation and undermined confidence in the police.
The 48-year-old, who used his warrant card and handcuffs to carry out the crime, had been planning for at least a month before he targeted Ms Everard.
He was handed a whole-life prison sentence in September and is currently behind bars at at Frankland prison in County Durham.
Police forces across the UK have started to use drones to carry out operations including helping to search for missing people and identifying cannabis factories.
Richard Gill, founder of Drone Defence, said the idea came to fruition after the outcry over the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard (pictured) by Wayne Couzens in south London last year
Cambridge Police invested in three drones in 2020 and the force said they had been deployed to assist with 225 incidents in about a 12 month period.
In October, Norfolk police said they planned to expand their drone fleet after successfully using them to assist on 1,500 incidents throughout the year.
Drones were also deployed to catch burglars, fly over firearms incidents and to monitor illegal camps and unlicensed music gatherings.
In London, the Metropolitan Police have been using drones since a trial was launched in 2017.
The drones have been deployed for coverage of crime scenes, providing aerial support for pre-planned operations, surveying premises and providing live footage of operational deployments at public order events.
Mr Gill said using drones could prove to be more efficient than using police helicopters, reaching a target area within four minutes compared to 20 minutes for a chopper.
He told the Telegraph: ‘London on average has a police helicopter above it for eight hours a day.
‘For the same price as they currently pay for the helicopter, you could have 25 drones offering 250 flying hours per day. This would need five base locations across the city.’