Drone complaints soar in the UK, leading to growing annoyance and concerns over snooping

Drones are stirring up public annoyance in the U.K. as the number of complaints to police are said to have soared twelvefold over the past two years – including allegations of snooping neighbors, burglary "scoping" exercises, prison smuggling and near-misses with aircraft.

Last year incidents rose to 3,456 (about 10 a day), almost tripling the 2015 figure of 1,237. In 2014, the number of incidents was only 283, indicating that the commercial success of the devices has brought with it a growing public nuisance.

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The findings were a result of a freedom of information request submitted by the Press Association to show the number of incidents logged by police around the country between 2014 and 2016.

Their timely release follows several reports of near-misses with passenger planes and drones, and the arrest of Daniel Kelly, 27, last year, who became the first person in the U.K. to be jailed for smuggling items into prisons.

But the actual total of cases is thought to be much higher, as not all police forces were able to submit data on the drone cases.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for drones, in response to the increase in reports, highlighted a rising "awareness of what drones are and what they can do."

"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," he said Monday, according to the Press Association.

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

How to not fly your drone
How to not fly your drone

David H Dunn, a professor at Birmingham University, warned of the snooping risk posed by the proliferation of drones.

Speaking to the Press Association, 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."

U.K. ministers are considering a number of additional safety measures, which include mandatory registration of new drones and making the devices electronically identifiable so the owner's details can be passed to police if they are found breaking the law.

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