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News Link • Surveillance

The EU is Considering Using Drones to Police Farm Subsidies, Enforce Environmental Rules

• www.popsci.com

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.

Enter the drones. Flying under cloud cover, their cameras can get detailed imagery of the ground below, snapping angled views that complement the straight-down imagery gathered by orbiting satellites. They are quick to deploy and can be used to investigate specific cases rather than huge swaths of countryside. And they could help the EU keep from bleeding millions of euros to subsidy fraud.

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