Drugs

Thieves in UK Are Using Drones to Locate and Steal From Cannabis Farms

The burglars seek out cannabis operations in order to burglarize or extort them.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Robert Mandel

Miscreant techies in the United Kingdom are following in the footsteps of law enforcement, adopting the use of heat-seeking drones to locate pot farms, which often rely on heat-intensive hydroponic lights. However, the enterprising thieves are detecting the cannabis operations in order to burglarize or extort them.

The proliferation of drone technology is nothing new in the UK, but this particular application is the first of its kind, according to Halesowen News. The newspaper, which serves the West Midlands of England, spoke to one of these pioneering criminals about the development of the technique.

"I bought my first drone for a few hundred quid and learned how to fly it over wasteland and fitted a Wi-Fi camera to it so I could look into people's windows,” the unnamed source said. "However, I noticed police helicopters used thermal-imaging cameras to find cannabis farms because of the heat the hydroponic lights give off, so I bought a secondhand heat-seeking camera online and hooked it up to my iPad.”

The number of cannabis farms in the area is growing, according to a report by the Independent. A similiar trend is happening across Britain according to a report from the Association of Chief Police Officers, which found that the number of cannabis farms police discover per day has doubled in recent years. One result of this increase is the subsequent rise in criminals targeting cannabis growers—including the rogue drone-wielding theives.

"It is no surprise enterprising criminals would want to get the upper hand in the criminal underworld by using drones,” said Tom Watson, a local member of Parliament and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones. “As a society we will be dealing with the impact of drones on our laws and regulations for years to come.”

The Halesowen News’ 33-year-old source called his victims’ pot operations “fair game.”

“It is not like I'm using my drone to see if people have nice televisions,” he said. “I am just after drugs to steal and sell. If you break the law then you enter me and my drone's world.”

Elizabeth Limbach is a journalist based in Santa Cruz, California. 

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