LONDON – Helicopter-mounted cameras capable of identifying the color of a suspect’s shoelaces on the ground from almost a mile away have been unveiled as a key weapon for security officials preparing of this summer’s London Olympics.
The U.K. capital’s Metropolitan Police plan to use the airborne cameras to monitor large areas that would otherwise need to be secured by dozens of officers on the ground. They will also be utilized during Diamond Jubilee celebrations — which recognize Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne.
The devices feature powerful zoom functions which can even allow officers flying in helicopters to see the color of a suspect’s eyes on the ground.
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The aircraft will be used to monitor open public areas such as the River Thames, where huge crowds are expected to congregate to watch a royal flotilla as part of the Jubilee events. Images will then be fed back to police command centers on the ground.
Metropolitan Police Constable Ian Miller told NBC News: “We’ll be able to deal with most threats. Primarily, it’s going to be public safety — the river itself is a hazard and there’s going to be a lot of crowds.
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“From a good distance, you can have good clothing description and we’re talking shoelace description… we’re talking a kilometer (1,094 yards) away at least.”
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More than 300,000 extra visitors are expected in London over the weekend of June 2-5, when most of the Diamond Jubilee events will take place.
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“We provide an aspect of the security plan that’s not easily achieved on the ground so we can see rooftops, we can see inaccessible places and we can do so very, very quickly and efficiently from the helicopter,” police Sergeant Richard Brandon added. “If we were to try and search all of those areas with conventional search teams, it would take weeks — if not months – to fully clear those sites.