The Guardian (24.9.10) has reported that the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which works closely with police forces and MI5, has released an “unusually detailed” public tender notice requesting submissions from suppliers of airborne observation “platforms” that can be adapted for “target acquisition” and intelligence-gathering.

The agency’s request for bids is entitled “UK-London: intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance”. It proposes the use of both conventional planes and UAVs for a national air patrol service. The document suggests the surveillance contract could be put out to a private company.

The tender seeks information on “a fully serviced, airborne, surveillance-ready platform for covert observation”. Drones, or planes, should be available for deployment within two hours of orders for “urgent taskings”. Missions lasting up to five hours and night-flying are anticipated. “Low noise signature and unobtrusive profile” as well as a “discreet while accessible operating base” are said to be desirable features of any future aerial security system.

Pictures from onboard cameras and thermal-imaging equipment should be capable of being beamed down to “command and control rooms” as live, Soca’s tender specifies. The agency adds that it “welcomes information from potential suppliers with regard to any UAV technology options”.