£80,000 police blimp plan falls flat

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The Independent Online

Police bosses were feeling deflated today after an £80,000 surveillance balloon was scrapped after just a year.

The "secret" surveillance tool had to be axed by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) because it could not cope with the city's notoriously windy and rainy weather.

The blimp, which was unmanned, had a sophisticated camera mounted underneath that could swivel 360 degrees and film up to a mile away.

It was touted in the force as a "brand new airborne crime-fighting tool" bought for crowd monitoring, supporting police operations and flown above hotspot areas to target specific crimes.

Five staff were specially trained to monitor footage from the blimp and It was first used at last summer's massive Oasis gigs at Heaton Park in the city.

But after being used only a few times it was found the blimp's outer skin kept ripping and tearing in rain or windy weather.

It has now been scrapped and sold at a loss - for around £20,000.

Chief Superintendent Dave Anthony of GMPs Specialist Operations Branch, said: "We experienced a number of technical and other problems with the blimp and it was decided, especially in the current climate, that it was neither cost effective nor operationally viable to maintain.

"We have been able to recycle various parts of the blimp that have been put to operational use while the vehicle itself has been sold."