How police drones technology can be used at a protest

A guide to how police drone technology may be used at protests, and how you can try to maintain anonymity (UK edition).

Key points
  • Police drones usually come equipped with cameras but might also be equipped with speakers, surveillance equipment or communication interception tools.
  • Drones may be used to track people’s movements during a protest, or monitor protesters’ calls and messages.
  • Maintaining your anonymity will depend on the technologies that the drones are equipped with.
Drone watching crowd graphic

What are police drones?

  • Drones are remotely controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) of varying sizes.
  • They usually come equipped with cameras and might be enabled with Facial Recognition Technology.
  • Drones can be equipped with speakers, surveillance equipment, radar and communications interception tools, such as ‘IMSI catchers’.

How might drones be used during protests?

  • Camera-enabled drones may be used to remotely monitor and track people’s movements in public spaces, including at protests, without them consenting or even knowing.
  • Similarly, when equipped with communication interception technologies, drones can be used to monitor and track protestors’ calls and messages, in and around the area where a protest is taking place.
  • Drones equipped with speakers may also be used to communicate with protesters, for example by giving them orders, instructions or warnings [1]. 

What to think about when going to a protest

  • Drones use and impact on with your anonymity depends on the technologies they are equipped with.
  • See our separate guides about Facial Recognition Technology and IMSI catchers, as these are common tools that a drone could use to monitor the activities of protestors.

You can download this guide as a jpeg by saving the image below, or by downloading the pdf version in ‘Attachments’.



[1]. We don’t know for sure what kinds of capabilities the drones used by British police forces are equipped with.