You would be forgiven for thinking that this article sounds like a piece of science-fiction, but with UK police confirming 16 incidents that involved the use of a quadcopter camera-drone taking place within 14 months (Jan 2014 – March 2015), this threat of criminal ingenuity is very much genuine and, just as worryingly, recent.
Upon a public information request, the Suffolk Constabulary confirmed that 10 of these incidents were investigated by police officers after reported sightings of drones (UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) from concerned members of the public.
One residential property was indeed circled and surveyed by a would-be thief allegedly trying to find and record weak spots in the house from a distance (windows left ajar, lack of burglar alarms, no one being home). However, no charges actually ended up taking place. Only one incident actually resulted in charges being brought, and this is when a concerned citizen angrily confronted the owner of a drone after reportedly spotting it in full flight in January of this year.
The fact that only one incident resulted in charges strongly suggests that it’s largely due to the legal ambiguity surrounding drones; assumingly because they are only now being bought and utilised by the consumer market.
Law on drones – the facts so far
It’s been stated in recent reports that the Suffolk Constabulary have said the number of drone incidents are still low in relation to most police matters and that they are striving to work with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to make a record of and analyse instances of consumer drone activity. However, they are not yet taking action independently against drone offences.
In what can only be a direct correlation, the model size of drones is becoming increasingly smaller as the growth of consumer drone use has risen in the last two years, therefore making them easier to operate with the means available to most individuals. Weighing roughly between 7.5kg to 20kg, many of these drones are remote-controlled and come manned with an advanced camera attached (most drones offer real-time video streaming to a smartphone or tablet that’s connected to the pilot’s remote controller).
For this reason, it would be easy for a person to hide in the shadows and still be able to see on the drone if your house is easily accessible (e.g. french windows) or has a lack of security precautions or installation.
The drone guidelines set out by the CAA state that:
- Drones must be flown at least 50m away from people
- Drones must be flown at least 50m away from buildings
- Drones must be flown at least 50m away from airports
- Drones must not fly any higher than 400ft or out of the line of sight of the drone’s pilot
Guidelines are one thing, but enforcing this through a proof of measurement (“It was fifty-two metres away Officer!”) is a different and difficult matter entirely; especially in rural, quieter areas outside of the city where there are less cameras and CCTV surveillance.
What can you do to combat spying drones?
Although the police have announced that they will be taking responsibility for the irresponsible or outright illegal participation of drone flying in the future independently, it still doesn’t mean that the drones won’t be a threat, just as cases of burglary and other illegal activities always (unfortunately) remain in the realms of possibility.
People are now more predisposed in regards to reporting the sightings of drones use to the justified worries of these drones being used for criminal purposes. UAVs and drones also tend to be quite loud when operated, so anyone within close proximity should be able to detect and report them with little fuss. However, a worry is that if the occupant(s) are not home (e.g. midday of a weekday), then will be no-one there to witness the drone being used to look for vulnerabilities in your home that make it easier to for thieves to burgle.
We highly recommend that all homeowners and occupants practice good home security, so have a browse at the latest Big Brother security systems and products today: we have the best range of burglar alarms, garden floodlights, CCTV surveillance cameras (to catch the drone red-handed) and overall protection plans to give you peace of mind and keep your home safe and sound.
As much as drones sound like they’d be fun to fly around with a remote control, we certainly don’t want one to be used successfully to compromise anyone’s property or belongings!
Feature image credit: Don McCullough via Flickr
If you enjoyed this blog post then perhaps you’d like to read “Catching Bad Delivery Companies On CCTV“?