Technology

Drones prompt 'flood' of complaints to police

a drone with a plane in the background Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many airports have logged near misses between aircraft and drones

Police forces in the UK are being "flooded" with reports involving drones, an investigation has said.

Last year, more than 3,456 incidents involving drones were recorded, compared with only 1,237 in 2015, PA news agency reported.

The numbers suggest about 10 incidents per day are being logged, it said.

Drone-based complaints include invasions of privacy, disputes between neighbours, near misses with aircraft and prison smuggling, said PA.

The news agency said the total number of drone incidents was likely to be higher than the figure it had given because not every force it contacted with its Freedom of Information request responded.

Drone misuse

Growing use of drones could have a significant impact on personal privacy, Prof David Dunn, a politician scientist from the University of Birmingham, told PA.

"Previously you had a hedge, you had a wall and you could do whatever you wanted in your garden without people disturbing you," he said. "That has changed because of drones."

Many of the reports logged by forces involved arguments caused by drones being flown over gardens or for long periods of time near crowds.

In some cases, said police, burglars seemed to be using drones to check if a house was occupied before breaking in. Criminals have also used drones to ferry drugs and other contraband into prisons.

In 2016, there were 70 near misses between drones and aircraft at UK airports, according to figures gathered by the UK Airprox Board, which logs these incidents. In 2015, there were 29.

Ass Ch Con Steve Barry, who heads the group overseeing drones on the National Police Chiefs' Council, said more and more members of the public were becoming concerned about the use of drones near them or their family.

"We have to balance the growth of this technology by ensuring that the public are aware of the strong regulatory framework and detailed user guidance that is available relating to drone use," he said.

UK rules on drone use say the small craft must:

  • be visible to their controller at all times
  • go no higher than 120m (400ft)
  • not be flown near airports or airfields
  • not come within 50m (150ft) of people or property
  • not be flown over crowds or built-up areas

The Department for Transport is running a consultation exercise to consider whether new measures are needed to keep drones safe. One step under consideration is the creation of a criminal offence covering drone misuse.

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