In a deal with the Air Force, the unmanned planes will be rolled out for “research missions” during the day and night in Italy, the Air Force said in a statement.
“The Predator system will be used to carry out reconnaissance missions, surveillance and the acquisition of targets,” the Air Force said, without giving details of where the drones will be used.
They could be rolled out to police major events, of a similar nature to the G8 meeting in 2009 and the Russia-Italy summit held two years earlier.
Drones could also help authorities respond to natural disasters, the Air Force said. More than 300 people died when an earthquake struck L'Aquila in 2009, while in recent weeks 12 people have died in bad weather in northern Italy.
Italian media suggested police could use Predators for the surveillance of protests, which are currently watched over by helicopters. Clashes erupted in Italy earlier this month during anti-reform marches, while further protests will accompany a general strike on December 12th.
The Air Force highlighted the ability of drones to stay in the air for more than 20 hours, in addition to being quickly directed towards new targets, as particularly appealing design elements.
Italy currently owns two types of Predator drones (A+ and B+), build by California-based General Atomics.
The A+ model has a 14.8m wingspan, can travel 296km away from a base and reach heights of over 25,000ft. It cruises along at 135 to 160km an hour, while the B+ can reach speeds of 445km an hour. With a 20.1m wingspan, the latter model is the larger of the two Predators owned by the Italian Air Force.
Drones are currently used by the UK police force, while in Germany they have been used for animal protection.
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A trio of European companies is currently developing drone technology, including a subsidiary of Italy's Finmeccanica. Alenia Aermacchi will work with France’s Dassault Aviation and Airbus Group in Germany to develop an unmanned aircraft by 2020, Finmeccanica announced in May.