back to article Beware, sheep rustlers of the South West of England! Police drone spy unit gets to work

Devon and Cornwall Police is launching its drone-equipped aerial surveillance team today. The flying spy team was first established two years ago on a trial basis and has now been made a permanent unit within D&C Police. Its remit is to provide the same sort of aerial surveillance that the force helicopter provided but at a …

  1. ArrZarr

    I look forwards to seeing how useful it is for the plod to fly drones within visual range only in the search for missing criminals.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      It's only a matter of time now before The Archers have a piece on drone-chased livestock rustlers.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Wildlife crime

    Well oim buggered! Oiv'e never seen a badger do that!

    1. frank ly

      Re: Wildlife crime

      Well, that sheep's buggered so we'd better arrest the guy.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Wildlife crime

      Badgers. Don't mess with 'em.

  3. charlieboywoof


    Whats that (point crowds etc)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Wait for it....

    I expect an unusually high number of attractive female "suspects" to be on the receiving end of this nonsense.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes et cetera.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    We could do with a few here. For a start they could maybe do something about the fly-tipping that's the inevitable consequence of the council's restrictions on use of the recycling centres dumps. And I'd like them to have caught whoever opened the farm gate down the road the other day - I am not happy about having the bull wandering loose on the lane.

    1. Adam JC

      I bet the people coming across it were even more unhappy!

      Reminds me of that scene in Max and Paddy'...

  6. Haku

    Battery life

    One of the biggest problems with using drones for spy work in this way is the lack of airtime per battery, you're looking in the region of 15 useable minutes for an Inspire.

    To get the kind of flight time that would really help tackle rural crime, a hydrogen fuel cell system is what the doctor ordered to give you hours instead of minutes of flight time.

    Something like this: But the lack of prices anywhere on the web mean it's probably going to cost a small fortune.

    However there is an alternative, tethered power systems like this, enabling the drone to stay aloft indefinitely. But the drawback is the only place it's likely to fly is straight up, which actually could be advantageous if you attach a camera with a powerful zoom lens to the drone to track where the 'criminal' is, what they and their vehicle looks like and where they're going.

    1. Adam JC

      Re: Battery life

      After having installed 30x optical zoom PTZ CCTV cameras at an airfield, I can attest that even with the strongest/sturdiest of mounts, at 30x full zoom the amount of 'wind wobble' can be significant. I can only imagine that on a drone susceptible to wind wobble at great height, this would present a fairly major issue!

      1. Haku

        Re: Battery life

        @ Adam JC

        High quality 3-axis gimbals are extremely good at filtering out 'wind wobble' and vibrations from the drone itself.

        This is one of my most stable pieces of quadcopter footage I've taken, using a Zhiyun Z1-Tiny2 3-axis gimbal holding a Xiaomi Yi camera, granted there was practically no wind on that day but even on windy days it's still just as stable in regards to filtering out vibrations:

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Battery life

          That's very nice, but the distortion effect of the wide angle lens does weird things to my head. There should be no visible curvature to the horizon at that altitude so it makes the whole scene look "wrong". It's almost disturbing.

        2. Adam JC

          Re: Battery life

          That's impressive Haku, I've done MotoX near minchinhampton :)

          I was more on about having zoomed in 30x at those kinds of heights, the wobble is greatly amplified. Am jealous of your drone!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Battery life

      "However there is an alternative, tethered power systems like this "

      Does no one build and sell ICE based drones? I could imagine syncing 4 or more 2-3cc engines might be a challenge, or a single larger engine with more complex mechanical linkages and pitch control on the props, but it should be capable of significantly longer flight durations and near as dammit instant "recharge".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Battery life

      Partner agency used one of those, they're rather useful if you're in an area with patchy CCTV.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Battery life

      If you are going to do that, would it not just be much cheaper to use a kite?

  7. Stevie Silver badge


    "to combat wildlife crime"

    About time if you ask me. Gangs of cows are roaming the countryside openly. It's a national disgrace.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      re. Gangs of cows are roaming the countryside openly.

      wrong verb. Try "terrorising". See, now droning them makes perfect sense...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah!

        That justifies arming the drones, and marking up the price 100x. Good show!


        Charles Woodburn

        CEO, BAE Systems

  8. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

    Operation Countryman

    "This is not to suggest that Devon and Cornwall Police takes the same cavalier attitude towards obeying the law that their colleagues in the Big Smoke do."

  9. Alan J. Wylie

    Seeing as I'm now several chapters into Charlie Stross's "Delirium Brief", I wonder if they can be upgraded to SCORPION STARE capability?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Airborne Sheep Shaggers ...

    It were worrying the sheep your honour so i give's it both barrels from me shotgun!

  11. David Roberts Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Back in real life

    I've seen a very sensible use of a drone by the emergency services.

    Mind you, in Katooma, NSW, Australia.

    There is a mahoosive stairway from the Echo Point viewing area down to the valley floor.

    Someone was reported to be in trouble near the bottom.

    They sent a drone down to check this out before commiting to sending someone down all those 800+ steps.

  12. Ogi

    A hackers dream...

    ...possibly delivered right to their feet for free.

    I mean, a drone with a HD thermal imaging camera (with what looks like a decent lens on it), cool electronics, batteries, powerful motors, etc... I can imagine these things being pilfered by those so inclined for their parts alone.

    Especially if the communication is the same COTS as pretty much all other drones (it tends to be, as a general rule, unless it is military spec). One successful MITM over say, a forest, and you could just make it seem like the drone lost power and crashed into the forest floor, out of sight.

    By the time they go there to retrieve it, it can already be long gone (unless they send another one to look for it, in which case you might end up with two drones that day).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flying squad

    Air-lo, air-lo, air-lo, what's all this then?

    - Officer Biggles

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Build a drone with the means of powering itself with a petrol-powered engine? Then you'll be able to keep it aloft for long periods, and it'll be cheaper than a helicopter.

    Drawback - engine sound need to be muffled properly otherwise the ne'er-do-wells will just aim a shotgun towards the general direction of the sound and hope for a lucky kill.

  15. Keith Langmead

    Not just D&C

    Uhhh, no, it's not just D&C that are deploying this, it's both Devon & Cornwall Police AND Dorset Police (eg all three counties have been involved in the same set of tests, unlike Sussex which is separate). As much as we in Devon love to mock our motorway deprived neighbours, lets not completely ignore them! :)

  16. hatti

    I'll be there drectly

    Proper job!

  17. JCitizen Bronze badge

    I always wanted to run one of those things.

    If it were me, I'd park occasionally on a high point, like the top of a pole or high rise building, and save flight energy for when I see an event, or a person of interest! I'd have a whole map of strategic perch points for my little electronic vulture!

  18. JCitizen Bronze badge


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