Lincolnshire Police have released drone footage showing the moment their new technology caught a cannabis farmer red handed — a first for the county force.
Lincoln Crown Court heard on Friday how, on a scouting mission last October, one of the force’s two drones discovered a Chapel St Leonards cannabis farm with over £50,000 worth of the plants.
Inspector Ed Delderfield recalled the night of the operation: “We had received information that this man was potentially growing cannabis and we knew that he had done so before.
“Where this man lived was surrounded by trees and bushes, so it was actually like a compound. Our intelligence officers spoke with our drone operators and asked if our drone’s thermal imaging could help – we agreed this could work and started our operation at 2am one morning.
“We turned up and flew the drone 400ft across an open field, before hovering 50m from the property. The heat source was obvious and we scrolled through our different filters to highlight the ‘heat’ in a number of different spectrums. The filming from the drone took one minute and 20 seconds, and it was only in the air for five minutes from start to finish.
“From here we passed the footage on to the investigating team who used this to get a court warrant for the first time in Lincolnshire.
“It was great to be able to show this evidence in court as it provides a visual that couldn’t really have been done in any other way. Admittedly, the NPAS helicopter could have done this, but this would have been at a cost of about £3,000 per hour, and we did this as part of our routine duties. All we had to do is charge the drone up!
“This is an incredibly useful resource available to us and we will continue to use tactics like this to confirm or deny – but only acting on intelligence which has already been collated.
“We have 10 drone operators within Lincolnshire Police and we are all ecstatic with this result and it is a vindication of the support we have had from our Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable to get this successful prosecution.
“For our pilots this is job satisfaction personified and we will have five more pilots within out ranks before the summer is out.”
Marc Jones, Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, celebrated the drone’s first successful prosecution: “I’m delighted to see yet another fantastic example of the impact drones can have on our operational capability.
“The investment in this equipment has already proved its worth in its cost effectiveness and in its ability to help our front line officers keep our communities safe.
“We will continue to look for new ways in which the latest technology can aid us in our drive to be the most effective and efficient force possible.”