Mystery over strange object seen flying above Belfast ... but police deny it's one of their drones
A mysterious flying object spotted in south Belfast has left locals scratching their heads.
The drone was photographed flying over the river Lagan early last Thursday morning and has since been the focus of feverish speculation on Twitter.
Locals have spoken of blue lights flashing from the object which appears to be some sort of unmanned aerial craft.
There was speculation online that the drone may have been one of three which the PSNI had purchased earlier this year, but police have denied this.
In April, the force was authorised to spend £1m on the purchase of three small drones.
Flown by operators on the ground, the aircraft can relay live pictures from high-quality cameras.
The drones, or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), are intended to be used in searches for suspects and missing persons.
They will also provide support to officers attending calls and when dealing with public order situations.
It was also thought they were used during the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh to conduct reconnaissance over rural areas around the conference venue.
However, a PSNI spokesman denied the object spotted in south Belfast was anything to do with them.
He said the police are not yet operating them over public areas.
"A PSNI Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) was not used over the River Lagan on Thursday.
"PSNI are not yet operating UASs over public areas.
"Until the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are satisfied that the PSNI's operational procedures for UASs meet the requirements for public safety, PSNI will not be operating them over public areas."
Earlier this year, another drone was spotted flying over Lurgan. However, the PSNI also denied that object was anything to do with them.
Different types of drones can be bought on eBay for as little as £400, leading to speculation that the object seen over the river may have been on a private mission.
A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said it is not aware of the flight but that individuals did not need permission to fly drones of a certain size, adding that they are regarded much like model airplanes. But commercial organisations who fly drones equipped with a camera need to notify the CAA.
He confirmed that the PSNI has authorisation from them to fly a drone.