English Channel Will Soon Be Buzzing... With UAVs
In a move eerily
reminiscent of a certain Orwellian novel, European countries are
planning to use fleets of UAVs with powerful cameras to patrol
Europe's borders to thwart people-smuggling, illegal immigration
A British-built "spy in the sky" UAV is already in service with
the US Immigration Department, patrolling the Mexican border where
millions of illegal workers cross into the US every year.
Reported to cost $1.9 billion dollars, a fleet of the small
planes will fly at more than 2,500 feet over the English Channel,
reports The Independent on Sunday newspaper.
The plan is to use high tech cameras and anti-terrorism devices
for surveillance purposes over borders.
The UAVs are already being used by the Belgian government to
catch tankers illegally dumping oil in the North Sea. Several
ships' captains have already been prosecuted, reports the
The European Commission now wants to use the UAVs, which can
have a 19 and half foot wing-span and weigh as little as 430
pounds, to patrol the Mediterranean coasts and the Balkans
where illegal immigrants try to enter the EU. The Russian
government is also close to flying drones over its borders.
Alongside the new UAVs,
officials in Brussels have launched more than a dozen research
projects to develop new technologies for counter-terrorism,
policing and border security.
They include body scanners that can see through clothing and
detect explosive vests, guns or chemical weapons; portable devices
that can "see" through walls and detect people moving inside
buildings; and tiny radio tags that would be fitted on people
inside buildings under surveillance.
But the plans are not without scrutiny.
Ben Hayes, the author of the report, said "Everyone agrees with
more money for the police and security services to combat
terrorism, but the danger is that EU policy is increasingly skewed
towards a particular brand of 'security', based on military, police
and corporate interests."
The report by the London-based civil rights group Statewatch and
the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam claims that Brussels and
the European defense companies are in a hurry to catch up with
spending in the US, where President Bush has pledged to spend $1
billion a year on "homeland security".