Students are being treated "like potential criminals" by Sussex Police as they plan to use a drone to monitor revellers on their nights out, say campaigners.

The decision to use the "military-style" surveillance technology in Brighton by Sussex Police has been slammed by civil liberty campaign group Big Brother Watch who say it could erode trust in the force even further.

But police bosses say it will ensure clubbers "have a safe night out" and it is being used primarily as a crime deterrent.

The Argus: Superintendent Tucknott in front of the drone during a media event on the beachSuperintendent Tucknott in front of the drone during a media event on the beach (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

During a launch event outside The Arch nightclub on Brighton beach Superintendent Adele Tucknott told The Argus: "We will be using it to monitor and protect vulnerable people, keep them safe in the night time economy and catch perpetrators.

"It offers us a wider visibility than officers on foot, and is just another tool in our toolbox to make sure people have a safe night out.

"It is primarily a deterrent but it can also be an evidence gathering tool. If we can make arrests as a result of the drone, that would be great."

The Argus: The drone can identify people from the skyThe drone can identify people from the sky (Image: Sussex Police)

Each drone weighs over 3.5 kilograms and carries a range of cameras including night vision, thermal and infrared, and operators can use a megaphone to speak with revellers or beachgoers from the sky.

The drone squad will work alongside police officers on the ground to cover all angles of the seafront not only during Freshers' week but on busy evenings throughout the year.

The unprecedented use of the unmanned aircraft goes above and beyond what police forces have typically used drones for. Previously, officers have used them for missing people searches, monitoring crime scenes and for major public events.

The Argus: Once in the sky, the drone is almost silentOnce in the sky, the drone is almost silent (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Sussex Police now plan to use the drones for continuous surveillance over venues on and around the seafront along with monitoring the beach.

Senior advocacy officer at privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch Madeleine Stone said students are being treated like potential criminals.

She said: "Using military-style surveillance to monitor students is absurd and grossly disproportionate.

"Monitoring young people with drones won't prevent crime, but it will erode trust between the police and the local community.

"This Orwellian approach to policing treats all students like potential criminals and should be abandoned immediately.

"The UK urgently needs an independent CCTV review to assess how, where and why intrusive new forms of video surveillance are being deployed."

The Argus: Officers operating the drone will have a bird's eye view of the cityOfficers operating the drone will have a bird's eye view of the city (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

However Superintendent Tucknott, who also serves as the force's lead for violence against women and girls, insists that the new addition to the night time economy is for the greater good.

She said: "Brighton already has a really comprehensive CCTV system. This is effectively CCTV which can go anywhere.

"This is a prevention tool for us to keep students safe on their nights out."

The Argus: Katy Bourne watches police officers operate the drone on the beachKaty Bourne watches police officers operate the drone on the beach (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

The Home Office's safer streets fund was used to make this possible, according to Sussex Police and Crime Comissioner Katy Bourne.

She said: "The drone can cover a vast area of land really quickly, and can go to places that might be inaccesible to officers. It's a great piece of kit and will definitely keep people safe.

"We are one of the most camera-surveilled countries in the UK, but this is just about keeping people safe."