Western Australia will use drones to spy on criminals, help with searches and assess bomb threats, it has been revealed.

The WA Police have approved a two year pilot of “remotely piloted aircraft systems”, according to local media.

Drones would be cheaper than helicopters or planes, and could be more effective on covert operations. Drones would cost 70 cents per hour to run, compared to hundreds of dollars in fuel costs alone for a helicopter, according to a police report obtained by The West Australian.

Drones can fly lower than helicopters and aircrafts and stream video feeds remotely to computers and smartphones. They can also be fitted with thermal imaging cameras that would allow them to be used for night operations.

The Western Australian Police believe that they are “far behind” other law enforcement agencies in the use of technology, while criminals already use drones for counter-surveillance, the report said.

Western Australia and New South Wales are also trialling drones to monitor sharks at popular beaches and swimming spots.

Other law enforcement agencies in the region are interested in drones to catch criminals. The Indonesian city of Makassar has purchased 20 drones to track criminals on the run from police, Mayor Danny Pomanto has told GovInsider.

He plans to use facial recognition technology on footage captured by drones to identify criminals. This will be checked against biometric data, which the city has collected from all residents, Pomanto said.