Criminal gangs target farms with drones

Ross Bryant
Ross Bryant

Organised criminal gangs in England and Wales have been using drones to locate valuable vehicles and farm machinery to steal at a later point.

Reports suggest that gangs are stealing expensive farm machinery ‘to order’ with high-spec Land Rovers and quad-bikes commonly being targeted.

The new method could present a unique problem for an already reduced rural police force, especially as rural crime continues to rise.

NFU Mutual who insure over seventy-five percent of British farms advise farmers to keep valuable machinery out of sight, but now that thieves have an aerial perspective it could prove difficult to hide such valuable equipment. According to NFU figures, rural crime rose seventeen percent in 2017 alone, compared to the previous year.

The drones are flown remotely and can be difficult to spot or hear when flying at a height, with one farmer in the South East only becoming aware that he was being surveyed after finding a crashed drone on his land.

Devon and Cornwall Police told The Moorlander that whilst they regularly receive drone related calls, privacy is normally the main concern of the public. However, given the range and compact nature of drone technology, identifying the pilot or their intentions is extremely difficult.

In recent years drone technology has accelerated rapidly. A drone costing around seven hundred pounds now has a radio control range of up to five miles. The viewer can record footage on to a memory card whilst operating the drone in a first person perspective through the camera, displayed in real-time using a smartphone or tablet.

Without specific permission drones are now banned throughout Dartmoor National Park, after members of the public complained about reckless piloting. In May it was reported that a drone came close to colliding with an F-15 Fighter jet over Dartmoor. After a number of ‘near misses’ between commercial aircraft and drones near airports the government issued new rules to drone users in July, issuing a height limit of 400 metres.

The new laws will also require owners of drones weighing over 250 grams to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and complete an online safety test, coming into force in November 2019.

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