Drones are no longer mere flying vehicles. Today, they are complex AI-powered machines used for many things, starting from taking photos, dropping a package, planting seeds, and dropping bombs.
People talk a lot about how drones are helping our society, but nothing good ever exists without a dark side. According to a Sky News investigation, in 2018 in the UK alone, there have been more than 2400 reports of incidents involving drones. From road traffic collisions, criminal damage to voyeurism and stalking.
Here are ten examples of how drones were used to commit incredible crimes recently.
Where there are people, there are stalkers. However, stalking has now moved from the streets to Facebook to drones. In a famous case, a western Sydney woman was being stalked and harassed by her ex-husband, not just physically, but by drones. What was meant to be a happy barbecue in her backyard on New Year’s Eve as a respite from months of harassment by her ex-husband turned sour when she saw a drone hovering above her head. She was quite sure that her ex-husband was controlling the drone to spy on her, and complained about the same.
Perverts use drones rampantly to photograph and snoop on people. In 2017 a couple in Utah were horrified when they spotted a drone flying outside their window. The husband chased the drone to a Church parking lot, where he captured it and called the police. They discovered that the drone was being used to film people inside their homes, including those living in high-rise buildings. The red light on it was taped so that it wouldn’t be visible in the dark. Aaron Foote and Terisha Norviel owned the drone. They turned themselves in after reading the police’s message on Facebook and were prosecuted for voyeurism.
3. Filming an ATM/cashpoint
In Templepatrick, Northern Ireland, a drone was used to film an ATM / Cashpoint and captured people entering their pin codes while they were withdrawing cash. An eyewitness spotted it and reported it to the police. But by the time they intervened, it flew off and crashed into a cab. The drone pilot was caught and forced to pay compensation for the damage done to the cab. It was hard to prove that the drone was used with wrong intents, but filming an ATM/cashpoint is still illegal.
4. Thefts and burglaries
Drones are frequently used to recce places and pick out vulnerable houses where thefts and burglaries can take place. Last year in June, a drone was spotted flying over a village in Cambridgeshire for four days, while at the same time, burglaries happened. In one case, the thieves entered through a bathroom window and robbed the house. Suspicions arose that the drones were being used to stake outhouses and the most accessible entry points.
5. Dropping drugs and other things in a prison
Several incidents have happened around the world, where drones have been used to drop illegal things into prisons. Here are some examples of the most famous cases.
a. Dropping a mobile phone in prison
In an incident in 2014, a man tried to use a drone to drop a mobile phone into a maximum-security prison in Melbourne, Australia. The event got a lot of attention, as this was the first such case in Australia. The man responsible was immediately caught from the car park from where he was controlling the drone.
b. Dropping drugs in a prison
A drone was used to drop drugs that included heroin, tobacco, and marijuana into an Ohio (USA) prison courtyard. It led to a violent clash between nine inmates that got so bad that the officers had to use pepper spray on them to stop them finally. Additionally, they also had to strip search 205 prisoners to make sure no one had drugs on them.
A drone was also caught trying to smuggle drugs into a Manchester jail in UK. It was painted black to make it inconspicuous, but a guard spotted it and prevented it from dropping the contraband into the prison by just an inch.
c. Dropping lethal weapons in a prison
Inspired by the Melbourne and Ohio prison antics, someone tried to get not just a mobile phone and drugs, but super glue and lethal weapons like hacksaw blades into an Oklahoma Prison in USA. The drone operators cleverly attached everything with a fishing line, so all the contraband could be just clipped away from the drone without the drone having to hover too close to the ground. Unfortunately, the drone got caught up in the razor wire of the prison walls and crashed. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections took the crashed drone as evidence, but charges were dropped against the person trying to commit the crime.
6. Drug smuggling at docks and borders
Reportedly, Australian smugglers used drone-based live streams to monitor the security at docks to keep them away from their group members. They not only kept an eye on the security personnel but also triggered fire alarms and caused other distractions with the help of the drones to draw them away from their fellow smugglers. Nowadays, drug smugglers around the world also use drones to bypass Border Patrol agents and get their drugs across from one country to another.
7. Flying over restricted airspace and disrupting flights
In 2018 alone, almost 250 drones were spotted or captured flying over restricted airspace. Between 2016 and 2018, dozens of drones were flown into the path of flights at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in the UK. These not only cause problems with the plane being delayed but also are potentially dangerous incidents, as the drones can crash into the cockpit windows or can get sucked into the engine of the plane, threatening the safety of the people aboard.
In one case, a pilot narrowly escaped being hit by a drone while flying his private Cessna plane. At those speeds, the drone wouldn’t just have crashed but killed everyone on the plane. No one has been prosecuted for most of these crimes because it a grey area as to who controls a restricted airspace and thus who needs to take legal action.
8. Terrorism with drones
ISIS or the Islamic State Militant Group acquired hundreds of cheap drones and used them to kill and terrorize people in Iraq and Syria. When Iraqi forces captured Mosul from ISIS in 2017, they found a massive number of drone factories there. Not only were these drones capable of dropping bombs, but they were also fitted with cameras to take pictures and videos of the harm they were causing. Other terrorist groups like Ahrar-al-Sham and Jund-al-Aqsa have also started using drones to kill and sabotage their enemies.
9. Spying on the FBI and law enforcement officers
Recently, when an FBI hostage rescue team was approaching a target building in a city in the USA, the targets used a swarm of drones to force agents out of their hiding and observation posts. It made it easier for attackers to target the agents. The criminals also fitted these drones with cameras to live stream videos of the FBI agents to YouTube, and monitor and share the activity of the FBI agents with their group members.
In several other cases, drones have been used to keep an eye on law-enforcement officers, mark potential witnesses in high profile cases, and even spy on police activities.
Drones can not just fly by your house and capture pictures or drop things; they can even hack into your Wi-Fi! A Hacking Drone is a drone with an SBC (UDOO) on board, which scans the Wi-Fi signals while flying and tries to hack the password of the routers it finds.
David and Fran Latimer, who were working for a security company, developed a drone called ‘Danger Drone’ that can get unauthorized access to most Wi-Fi networks by using a Raspberry Pi computer with preloaded hacking software that is strapped to a drone. Not only do such devices have long ranges of 1 or 2 km, but they can be configured to receive signals using cell towers, making them perfect for hacking and spying discreetly, without risking immediate capture.