Their ability to cover vast swathes of land at night time has seen drones called upon by police in Northamptonshire, who are battling a spate of rural crime which has seen 80 animals killed, butchered and sold to local restaurants.
Night time drone patrols using equipment fitted with thermal imaging are being deployed to check remote locations for sheep rustlers.
Drones will be used alongside ground patrols in the latest technological move to combat rustlers, who are able to steel hundreds of sheep in a single raid.
The move, called Operation Stock, will see drones track thieves and scour the countryside for stolen animals and farm equipment.
With 80 animals killed in Northamptonshire since the start of July, police believe the problem is “wider than just one county”.
One farmer who became the victim of sheep rustlers in the area, said: “Today the worst thing happened that my children witnessed. Today we found that our sheep were butchered in the field last night. Words cannot describe how I feel after all the hard work and love that goes into our stock.”
A man has been arrested as part of the police investigation into illegal sheep butchery.
The 40-year-old Hampshire man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and theft as part of the investigation.
Detective Inspector Johnny Campbell of Northampton CID, the senior investigating officer for Operation Stock, said: “We’re taking this fast-moving investigation very seriously with a dedicated team following a number of lines of inquiry into these awful crimes.
“One man arrested in connection with these incidents has been released under investigation, with inquiries ongoing as our investigators and the Rural Crime Team work tirelessly to bring those responsible to justice.
Inspector Tracy Moore, rural crime lead at Northamptonshire Police, added: “We’re aware of the impact these dreadful incidents have had on our farming community, and our dedicated Operation Stock police patrols continue around the clock.”
Image: Park End Farming