Rowing neighbours are reporting each other to the police over inappropriate use of drones

Katie Morley
Police aerial surveillance drone...PC Derek Charlton of Merseyside Police operates their new aerial surveillance drone in Liverpool - John Giles

Neighbours across Britain are falling out over a drone craze which is sweeping the country, as the number of police reports about the devices has trebled in two years.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request show the number of incidents logged by police involving the flying gadgets rocketed between 2014 and 2016.

Drones are behind a recent surge in crimes ranging from spying on neighbours to smuggling banned items into prisons. 

Police have been alerted to arguments and threats of violence between residents over drones, with cases ranging from petty to serious, the Press Association found.

In one instance a man reported that he suspected his neighbour was flying a drone "just to annoy him".

In another case an a man threatened to shoot down an "annoying" drone with an air rifle.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request show the number of incidents logged by police involving the flying gadgets rocketed between 2014 and 2016 Credit:  ROBERT MACPHERSON

Meanwhile several members of the public have contacted their local force to raise concerns that drones were being used for snooping. In one instance, a device was said to have been flown over a garden repeatedly while girls were sunbathing.

Alarmingly criminals are also 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.

Drones have also been used to drop drugs and other contraband into prison grounds, the findings showed. In one instance, substances previously known as "legal highs" were flown into a jail. 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.

Should we fear the rise of drones?

The true total is likely to be higher as full data was not available for all forces in the UK. The findings coincide with a jump in the popularity of the remote-controlled devices.

Sussex Police recorded the highest number of drone-related incidents last year, with 240, followed by Greater Manchester at 225.

Professor David Dunn, of Birmingham University, said people faced a "major challenge" in maintaining their privacy at home because of the proliferation of drones.

He said: "Previously you had a hedge, you had a wall and you could do whatever you wanted in your garden without people disturbing you. That has changed because of drones.

"It's true for celebrities. It's true for everyone. "Anecdotally I've heard that burglars using drones is a big issue for police forces. "People are using them to fly behind properties to see if the lights are on, to see what sort of French windows they have or whether there are windows open."

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for drones, said: "As awareness of what drones are and what they can do continues to grow, police forces have seen increases in concerns and reports by the public.

"We have to balance the growth of this technology by ensuring that the public are aware of the strong regulatory framework and detailed user guidance that is available relating to drone use." Following safety and privacy fears Ministers are now considering a number of additional safety measures, including mandatory registration of new drones. 

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