Belfast Telegraph

Drone incident rise by 800%, say Northern Ireland police

By Hayden Smith and Neil Lancefield

The number of drone incidents logged by the PSNI soared by over 800% between 2014 and 2016.

UK-wide, there has been a dramatic surge in incidents, an investigation has revealed.

They include rows between neighbours, prison smuggling, burglary "scoping", mid-air near misses and snooping fears.

Figures obtained by the Press Association show the number of incidents logged by police around the UK rocketed between 2014 and 2016.

In 2014, the PSNI logged 21 incidents, 75 the year after, and 197 in 2016.

In June 2015, a shop-bought drone filmed people taking money out of a cash machine in Templepatrick, Co Antrim as they entered their pin codes.

Last year, UK forces recorded 3,456 incidents, equivalent to nearly 10 every day. This was almost triple the 2015 figure of 1,237 and more than 12 times the 2014 tally of 283.

The true total is likely to be higher as full data was not available for all forces in the UK.

The number of reports to the PSNI was the third highest figure in the UK in 2016.

The findings, based on Freedom of Information requests, coincide with a jump in the popularity of the remote-controlled devices. They are available for as little as £30 and often boast built-in cameras.

The devices were at the centre of a wide range of incidents, including:

  • Disputes between neighbours. Police were alerted to arguments and threats of violence.
  • Nuisance drones. One man threatened to shoot down an "annoying" drone with an air rifle.
  • Prison smuggling. Drones have been used to drop drugs and other contraband into prison grounds. In one instance, substances previously known as "legal highs" were flown into a jail.
  • Fears of spying. In one instance, a device was said to have been flown over a garden repeatedly while girls were sunbathing.
  • Near misses, with drones being spotted near aircraft. In one incident, two separate flight pilots reported coming close to colliding with a large drone.
  • Burglary. Criminals are suspected of using drones to "scope out" properties ahead of break-ins. In one case, a burglary was reported after a drone was seen hovering over houses, while in others residents contacted police to report suspicions.

Ministers are considering a number of additional safety measures, including mandatory registration of new drones.

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