As drones get increasingly cheaper, their presence is becoming more widespread. But not everyone welcomes the increasing popularity of UAVs. They seem to be a particular annoyance to those in the UK, where the number of reports to police involving drones have increased twelve-fold over the last two years.
Data obtained by the Press Association show that allegations ranging from spying and burglary to near-misses and contraband smuggling are rising at an amazing rate. In 2014, there were just 283 reported drone incidents during the entire year. In 2015, the figure jumped to 1237, and last year it hit 3456 – equal to around ten every day. The true figures may be even higher, as information for all police forces was not available.
Smuggling drugs into prisons using drones is a common problem in some parts of the UK. Last year, Daniel Kelly became the first person to be jailed for using a drone to get contraband (tobacco and psychoactive drug Spice) into the hands of a prisoner.
Using drones to spy on neighbors is another regular complaint. One incident last August saw a drone repeatedly flown over a garden where teenage girls were sunbathing. “Previously you had a hedge, you had a wall and you could do whatever you wanted in your garden without people disturbing you,” said Birmingham professor, David H Dunn. “That has changed because of drones.”
Near-misses are on the up; a problem that some authorities worry could result in a tragedy. A police investigation was carried out last year after what was thought to be a drone collided with a British Airways Airbus A320, but it later turned out that the object was most likely a plastic bag.
The sharp rise means the UK’s Department for Transport is now looking at bringing in new measures to curb reported drone incidents, including mandatory registration, tougher penalties for flying in no-fly zones, and making the misuse of UAVs a criminal offense.