Police Scotland has no plans to use drones “covertly”, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has said.
He described the high-tech devices as having a “critical” role to play in policing, saying their use in areas which would otherwise be impossible to reach meant they could help save lives.
While Mr Livingstone said the use of the devices could “at times be misunderstood”, he insisted the force has no plans to use them covertly.
Police Scotland is currently working with watchdogs at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) to develop memorandum of understanding on their use.
Speaking at the latest SPA meeting, the Chief Constable said: “For me, our drones are extremely useful, they are critical.
“They have been used to assist in missing person searches and on occasion support public order incidents, or for example critical incidents, such as the Stonehaven rail derailment, where it was very difficult to get a sense of the locus.
“Drones can give officers on the ground very good situational awareness, allowing them to make sensible judgments and to allow them to discharge key operational tasks to keep people safe.
“They are not used covertly and we have no plans to do so.”
Mr Livingstone continued: “There is a sound operational case for using drones to enhance our air support, particularly in the north of the country and the remote parts of the significant jurisdiction that we police, where often the police helicopter is not available. Drones can and will save lives.”
On the use of technology, he also told how Police Scotland plans to roll out the use of body-cams to armed police officers by the time the Cop-26 UN climate change summit takes place in Glasgow in November this year.
The Scottish Government’s budget for 2021-22 includes £0.5 billion for “body-worn video” for officers, Mr Livingstone said, saying this highlighted the “significance” of the move.
Police Scotland began a public consultation about the use of this “essential piece of kit” at the start of February, the Chief Constable added, saying there had been a “very strong response” so far, with these showing “very high levels of support”.