Celebrities could soon be running for cover as paparazzi deploy unmanned drones to take their pictures, according to reports.
So-called “personal drones” mounted with cameras have already been used by police in crime fighting and photographers believe they could also be used to track stars.
Remote controlled flying devices about the size of pizza boxes are being developed by several companies and universities in the US and could be in use by the end of next year.
They are much smaller, simpler versions of the Predator drones used by the CIA to fire missiles in Afghanistan.
Ken Rinaldo, an associate professor at Ohio State University, is working on the “Paparazzi Drone.” At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada earlier this year he deployed “Paparazzi Bots,” human-sized robots which followed athletes and spectators and took photographs of them.
Prof Rinaldo told the Wall Street Journal his drones would have “a lot of flash and bling, probably some lasers too.” The US Federal Aviation Administration advises that only the government should use unmanned drones over US airspace.
However, it does not have rules prohibiting the flying of mini-drones for recreational purposes, and only advises that such aircraft be flown at low altitude and away from airports.
The FAA said if paparazzi began using the drones the “primary concern with that would be safety issues.” Supporters of the idea suggest that stars could benefit because they would no longer be followed by photographers in cars. However, lawyers suggested celebrities would fight any use of drones on privacy grounds.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also working on small unmanned drones.
Other potential uses include accompanying soldiers on the battlefield, as search and rescue tools following natural disasters, for parents to check on children, or even for suspicious husbands and wives to track their spouses.
In February it was disclosed that Merseyside Police in the UK had used a £40,000 drone called the “Air Robot” to successfully track a suspected car thief and arrest him.
By Nick Allen in Los Angeles
08 Nov 2010 6:11PM GMT
Source: The Telegraph