Police drone pays its way as court hears how equipment is used to bust £50k cannabis farm


Lincolnshire Police’s drone unit has proved the value of drones in crime fighting applications by providing vital evidence that led to the conviction of a cannabis farmer.

The unit gave insight into the operation saw Mark Lovell, 54, jailed for three years for producing cannabis. The cannabis farm was discovered after police carried out searches using a drone, Lincoln Crown Court was told last week, June 29.

Officers carried out a scouting mission last October, and as a result of evidence captured by the drone, found what was described as a professional cannabis growing operation which could produce more than £50,000 worth of the drug.

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Inspector Ed Delderfield said: “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.”

The unit flew the drone 400ft across an open field, before hovering 50m from the property where it was able to view an ‘obvious’ heat source. 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.

Delderfield added: “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.”

Police and crime commissioner, Marc Jones, added: “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.”

Lincolnshire Police currently has two drones with thermal imaging capability. Earlier this year the force made national headlines with its successful rescue of a hypothermic man.

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Emma Calder

The author Emma Calder

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