Posting in Technology
European farmland may soon be under the surveillance of drones - is the U.S. next?
In an attempt to catch out European farmers who claim more subsidies than they are entitled to, surveillance agencies are turning more extensively towards technological methods.
According to the BBC, satellites and spy drones are being turned to in order to try and prevent fraud and a waste of taxpayer's money. Europe's farms cost the taxpayer billions of euros in governmental subsidies each year, and the European Union is now running trials on investigative drones to work in conjunction with already-present satellite technology.
The new technology currently being trialed involves drones fly overhead and satellites taking images from relays hundred of kilometers above, recording minute details such as individual trees and the placement of animals to record a farm's activities.
Scanning a farm remotely rather than using the services of an inspector costs approximately one third less -- £115 ($180) instead of £310 ($490), according to the UK's Rural Payments Agency (RPA), who are ultimately in charge of dispensing subsidies and checking for unacceptable farm activity. According to the RPA:
"The RPA follows up only on those claims where there is some doubt about accuracy, and then only at the specific fields for which the doubt exists. This saves time, lifts the burden on farmers and reduces cost to the taxpayer."
If a farmer is found to be acting in a fraudulent matter, then evidence gleaned from this technology can be used against them -- resulting in a loss of their subsidies.
Approximately 70 percent of EU farming checks are now completed via satellite technology, although the method is not yet fool-proof. Checks can be made inaccurate due to shadows cast in mountainous areas, and some areas, like Scotland, are simply considered too cloudy for the technology to work efficiently. A major issue is that farmland, by its nature, is not static -- images change constantly. For example, counting animals accurately is difficult, and there are many elements of the countryside which alter over time.
This is where the extension of surveillance technology comes in -- the use of drones. These models are currently being tested in France, Italy and Spain. In order to forestall any privacy issues resulting in this method, the EU is currently seeking to relax current legislation on civilian drone use so the scrutiny can proceed country-wide.
Privacy groups have raised concerns over the use of this technology, however, many farmers have stated that they prefer remote sensorship than the prospect of inspectors on their land.
It is not only those in Europe that needs to take this in to account -- it may soon be coming to the United States.
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"Scanning a farm remotely rather than using the services of an inspector costs approximately one third less ??? ??115 ($180) instead of ??310 ($490)" That would be approximately 2/3 less.
My uncle, who worked for the USDA, told me back in the late 1960's of their use of satellites and infra-red imaging to monitor and detect fraud by farmers. The Drug enforcement programs use satellite images to detect marijuana patches. The images have been used in court cases. Drones are new, and possibly have a better possibility at identifying the individual drug producer. It is understandable that farmers prefer remote monitoring. There is less damage to their product. They pay a high price for seeds, and do not need inspectors destroying any part of their product. Most farmers are law abiding citizens.
Solving the European Drone Problem: 1. Stop subsidizing farmers. 2. Pull all U.S. military personnel and installations out of Europe and allow them to spend their own money on defense.
This kind of thing has already started in the U.S. Not so much at the Federal level, but many local police departments, local governments have received permission to use drones for surveillance - checking on people, looking in yards for work done without permits, real estate transactions, etc.
As part of coordinated training missions military drones have been used in parts of Virgina and No. Carolina to track speeders on I95 going back to the 1990s. I saw it from the military side of the operation. Large corporate farms in the US have long been using over flights, both planes and drones, mixed with satellite data, to monitor large fields for everything from pest infestations and water needs to weather damage and estimated crop yields.