Drones using AI could be deployed to protect women from predators at night

The Government could start using drones to protect women from predators as they walk home at night.

A group of former police officers and experts from the Civil Aviation Authority are set to apply for funding for the drones which would use AI technology, spotlights and thermal imaging to frighten attackers away.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, an app would allow women to summon a drone within four minutes.

The funds would come as part of the Government's Innovate research programme, with an estimated cost of £35,000 per drone.

Drone Defence, the company developing the technology, claims that the drones can do 80% of the tasks performed by police helicopters at a significantly reduced price.

They are also set to trial the drones at Nottingham University as they prepare to submit their plans to the Home Office.

A promotional video for the project explains: "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."

Drone Defence was founded by former army intelligence officer Richard Gill, who told the Telegraph that the Nottingham prototype would cost £500,000.

He said: "It is a high capability drone that costs just £100 an hour.

"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."

A qualified pilot will monitor the drones from a control room, ready to take over if necessary, with AI technology tracking phone signals from 200ft in the air.

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Drone Defence's video claimed that such technology had not been deployed "anywhere in the world", but admitted that there would be some regulatory hurdles to overcome before they are out in the streets.

Mr Gill and his colleagues came up with the idea following the outcry over violence against women which followed the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by then-serving police officer Wayne Couzens.

Couzens, 48, was given a whole-life term in September for abducting, raping and murdering Miss Everard.

If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 08 08 16 89 111 or visit their website, www.victimsupport.org.uk.

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