When European farmers turn their eyes skyward, they soon may have more than the weather to worry about. The more progressive aviation framework in Europe means that government monitors potentially have a new weapon in their arsenals--unmanned aerial drones--to enforce regulations, and they’re starting with agriculture. EU regulators are exploring potential aerial systems that can help them spot farm subsidy cheats and violators of Common Agricultural Policy rules.
Farm subsidies in the EU cost taxpayers billions of euros each year,
and so it’s naturally in the best interests of regulators to maintain
tight oversight over who gets how much. For years now, regulators have
relied on satellite imagery to help them keep an eye on those claiming
subsidies, photographing farmland from above and looking for the
telltale signs of subsidy cheats or breaches of environmental rules. But
satellite images are unreliable. In some places, mountainous terrain
makes for long shadows that obscure features on the ground. In places
like Scotland, it’s overcast all the time.