FULL marks to Wiltshire Police for trialling the use of aerial drones.

Equipped with cameras, thermal imaging gubbins and whatnot, drones can be used for anything from searching for vulnerable missing people to monitoring disorder and gathering images of witnesses and suspects.

They can reach places, such as in dense woodland, which would be dangerous for the police helicopter and inaccessible to officers on foot.

When I first heard about the drone project, I was telling a friend who knows about the machines that it also sounded like a great way of tracking down and dealing with criminals while making the best use of limited police resources.

I was a bit disappointed when my friend told me a 50mm chain gun was too heavy to be mounted under the average drone.

Another friend, who knows about the law, also had some disappointing news for me.

While she admitted that raining death from the skies on a fleeing mugger, or through the window of a house where a burglary was in progress – or for that matter on anybody she took a dislike to – might be a chuckle, it technically counted as murder.

Also, if you fire a 50mm rapid-fire cannon through the window of a suburban house, it can damage the soft furnishings. The same apparently goes for Sidewinder missiles.

Still, I reckon there must be some mileage in using drones creatively.

For example, drug dealers are rumoured to be thinking about using drones to reach clients and drop packages of illicit substances. The police might send undercover drones to get there first and make drops.

Not of drugs, obviously. Well, not illicit drugs, anyway. I’m thinking more in terms of industrial-strength laxatives. Once word got around, all the dealers would be forced to flee town. Drones could be used to deal with people who like to get all bevvied and anti-social in public. A skilled pilot would easily be able to hover just out of reach while a loudspeaker broadcast slurs about their masculinity or whatever.

Then, when they’d exhausted themselves vainly trying to jump high enough to grab the machine, it would only take a couple of coppers in a van to mop them up.

Bring in the geeky teenagers

I’M sure you’re as grateful as I am for the reassurances issued by senior NHS folk following the enormous cyber attack.

There have been suggestions that the attack was made possible, in part, because some of the systems used in certain hospitals and other facilities are a bit ancient.

Indeed, there have been suggestions that some of the systems are so ancient that the first user was a bloke who needed to count animals two-by-two on to a big wooden boat.

Thankfully, we now know that the systems in question have been extensively replaced over the last few years at a cost of many millions of pounds.

Apparently the old stuff now accounts for only about one in 20 devices used by the health service, if that.

So there we have it, folks. The calamitous cyber disaster, which affected the healthcare of countless people, did not happen because a load of old-fashioned computers were vulnerable to infiltration by criminals.

It happened because plenty of new ones, bought using millions of quid of our hard-earned cash, and on which all manner of horrifically sensitive data is stored, were vulnerable to infiltration by criminals.

Phew – for a moment there I thought we might be in trouble.

Anyway, perhaps in future every health trust in every community should employ somebody truly capable of assessing its computer systems.

Rather than going through, say an executive recruitment agency, a better strategy would be to comb fast food joints and locate the 15-year-old whose conversation about technology is least decipherable.

Then it would be a simple matter of reading them a list of potential operating systems and ditching any they sneered at.

I’m confused

PLEASE help me if you can, as I’m a bit confused about the bus lane on Penzance Drive.

If you read one of our stories a few days ago, you’ll know it’s generated almost £1.5m in fines over the last three years. The cash represents no less than 51,180 incidents.

The council says signage is adequate and in line with legislation.

Now here’s the bit that confuses me. Assuming the signage is perfectly adequate as the council insists, and assuming the 51,180 incidents include some drivers coming a cropper more than once, that still means thousands upon thousands of drivers are apparently either completely selfish and have money to burn or completely inept and have money to burn.

If this were true, surely the incidents of selfishness and ineptitude wouldn’t be so concentrated in Penzance Drive. Surely we’d all be scared to set foot outside our front doors for fear of some maniac driving on the pavement, the wrong way up one-way streets and around roundabouts, using school playgrounds as shortcuts and so on.

As this doesn’t generally seem to be the case, perhaps the council should have another look at those signs. After all, as the authority itself proclaims, bus lanes are there to help public transport work efficiently…