The research behind this initiative

Introduction – Freedom of Information Request (FOI)

In 2022, Aerial Defence Ltd filed a Freedom of Information request to all 46 Police Forces across the United Kingdom. The request included a number of questions to the relevant Police forces concerning their records relating to stolen drones, including the methodology concerning the offence and more specifically, what information the Police Force collected concerning the details of the stolen devices.

Information received from FOI

  • 38 (83%) of the 46 Police forces complied with the Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
  • Two of the United Kingdom’s four largest police forces, namely the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police, did not furnish a response.
  • There was no response from 8 (17%) Police Forces after forty-two days.
  • Police Forces do not use generic systems or identical procedures to capture and record stolen drone data. For example, for the majority of forces there is no specific item type of ‘drone’, within the crime recording database, so a manual keyword search had to be used.
  • Using the Metropolitan Police as an example, they have returned that if an incident was reported to the MPS in relation to the theft of a UVA (sic) or similar, this would be recorded on their Crime Report Information System (CRIS) under the property type SA – Photographic equipment.  This property type covers a range of equipment including cameras, photographic film etc and is not specific to UVA’s (sic) only.
  • 9 (20%) of the 38 Police forces who provided a return were unable to provide any data due to there being no mechanism to retrieve the requested information and the amount of work required to manually search crime records.  Staffordshire Police, for example, stated it would take approximately 130,000 hours (14 years) to search through crime records going back to 2015.
  • Inputting of data across forces is at best inconsistent. For example, some forces input “DGI Maverick” as a make and model, when in fact it should be “DJI Mavic”. This introduces serious, but easily fixable inconsistencies in the data.
  • A number of forces have supplied figures representing ONE occurrence of crime, however multiple drones were stolen during the commission of that crime.
  • The numerical data presented in the majority of responses is an un-audited snapshot of unpublished data sourced from “live” systems and is subject to the interpretation of the original request by the individual extracting the data.
  • As Police forces change crime recording processes, data becomes “lost” in legacy systems.
  • A significant number of forces have ZERO records where Serial numbers have been recorded. This makes traceability and identification of recovered stolen property very difficult, often impossible.  For example, West Midlands Police have recorded 126 Thefts of Drones, however, only 1 has had its serial number recorded.

Partial Solution by the CAA

In November 2019, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched Drones Reunited, a platform set up to help recover the thousands of drones lost in the UK each year. It was reported that over a quarter of drone owners admitted to having lost their drone. The service at was created to help reconnect owners with their lost devices.

Following a Freedom of Information request submitted to the CAA in August 2022, since the commencement of the Drones Reunited initiative on the 5th November 2019, the following statistics have been released:

  • Between the 5th November 2019 and 30th August 2022, there have been 117 drones submitted as LOST to the platform of which “Less than 5” have been ‘Found’ and returned to their owners.
  • Furthermore, between the 5th November 2019 and 30th August 2022, there have been only 17 drones submitted as STOLEN to the platform. This is a stark contrast to the amount of drones reported to the Police as Stolen.

Visual Statistics

Crime Type

By Force Area