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Drone spying, nuisance incidents soar

Press Association logoPress Association 3/04/2017 Hayden Smith and Neil Lancefield

Police in the UK are being flooded with reports about drones after a dramatic surge in incidents sparked by the devices, an investigation reveals.

The flying gadgets are at the centre of thousands of episodes registered by forces, including rows between neighbours, prison smuggling, burglary "scoping" exercises, mid-air near misses and snooping fears.

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

Last year, 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 findings, based on Freedom of Information requests, coincide with a jump in the popularity of the remote-controlled devices.

Records of incidents provided by some constabularies reveal the devices are at the centre of a wide range of reports, including:

* Disputes between neighbours, including one in which a man reported that he suspected his neighbour was flying a drone "just to annoy him".

* Nuisance drones. In one case a 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.

* Fears of spying. In one instance, a device was said to have been flown over a garden repeatedly while girls were sunbathing.

* Near misses. 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.

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