Drone complaints to Welsh police forces rise

Drone Image copyright PA

Police are dealing with a significant rise in calls about drones amid the growing boom in "cameras in the sky", figures released to BBC Wales show.

South Wales Police saw the biggest increase, with 38 separate incidents over the past year - up from only four during the previous three years.

Gwent Police had 19 complaints in 2015-16 and Dyfed-Powys had nine. North Wales Police had just one since 2010.

Drones were also reported over Swansea Prison twice last year.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed both the drone and a mobile phone were seized in the first incident, although no suspects were traced on either occasion.

Anyone found using drones in an attempt to get contraband into prisons could be punished with a jail sentence of up to two years.

Meanwhile, a second FOI request revealed the increase in calls to police in Wales about drones had increased in 2015-16.

They showed:

  • Of the 38 complaints received by South Wales Police, five warnings were issued after drones were flown in prohibited areas. On one occasion the flying of a drone above a house in south Wales was referred to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which looks after airspace safety. Again, however, no suspect was traced
  • Gwent Police reported no drone incidents from 2011/12 to 2013/14, and only one in 2014/15. But in 2015/16 that jumped to 19. Eleven of those were classed as "public safety and welfare" matters, and another four as "anti-social behaviour". However, none of these cases led to injury or damaged property, and there were no prosecutions
  • Dyfed-Powys Police had only four complaints between 2011 to 2014. These included calls about noise, flying above a business, and over a garden. But those complaints rose to nine in 2015, although four related to the same incident. One complaint was due to an "ongoing neighbour dispute" in Powys, and most were calls about the drones in the air in Pembrokeshire
  • The exception was North Wales Police, which said it had just one recorded incident since 2010

'Cameras in the sky'

Image copyright Getty Images

Drones are becoming increasingly accessible, with advances in technology leading to many people being able to afford a small device, often with a camera attached. Some basic models now cost less than £100, with more advanced types commonly available for £700-£1,000.

The CAA and police around the UK have successfully carried out four prosecutions for drone misuse, all resulting in fines.

The use of drones is governed by the law, and the CAA has a set of rules called the "drone code".

For instance, they must not be flown higher than 400ft (about 122 metres), users must be able to see them at all times, and drones with cameras cannot be flown within 50 metres (164ft) of people, vehicles, buildings or structures.

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