Drones Get Sketchier When You Use Them to Spot Pot Farms So You Can Steal the Drugs

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 18 2014 3:46 PM

Drones Get Sketchier When You Use Them to Spot Pot Farms So You Can Steal the Drugs

pot
Spot 'em from the sky.

Photo by Brett Levin.

In the United States and around the world, governments have started using drones, aka unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for law enforcement, but you could just as easily use them for ... the opposite of that. In Shropshire, England, one man claims he's been using drones to scope out pot farms to steal from. The local Halesowen News caught up with a 33-year-old anonymous thief who's proud of his tech savvy.

I bought my first drone for a few hundred quid and learnt how to fly it over wasteland and fitted a wifi camera to it so I could look into people's windows. 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 second hand heat-seeking camera online and hooked it up to my Ipad.
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The man said that he and his "crew" either steal pot directly or essentially blackmail whoever is running the farm. He added that there's minimal violence involved because pot growing is popular enough that those behind it tend to be average people who aren't interested in or used to physical confrontation.

The criminal wants to protect his anonymity for obvious reasons, but since we don’t know his identity it’s difficult to verify his story or get a sense of how widespread this practice is right now. He makes it sound like it wasn’t that difficult to get the gadgets he needed and start farm hunting. But there are a lot of heat sources out there and, who knows, maybe it takes him and his “crew” hundreds of man-hours to sort through all the data points and find the real hydroponic lights.

Tom Watson, a local parliament member, who is also the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, told the Halesowen News, "This remarkable story shows the proliferation of drone technology which can be used for both good and bad." Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Hat-tip: Ars Technica.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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