• Police are now able to find cannabis grows using infrared cameras attached to drones
  • Mark Lovell, 54, is the first person prosecuted using drone footage
  • Lincolnshire Police have 10 drone operators on their payroll
  • With more and more cuts to police funding, is this the best use of police time?


In the first of its kind, the British Police force has successfully prosecuted a man for growing cannabis, using footage from a drone as evidence.

Lincolnshire Police found a cannabis grow operation with the ‘potential’ to produce more than £50,000 worth of cannabis with the aid of drones equipped with infrared cameras.

Mark Lovell, 54, from Lincolnshire has been sentenced to three years in prison after a drone found the grow in his home.

Discussing the case in Devon Online, Inspector Ed Delderfield of Lincolnshire Police, said:

“We had received information that this man was potentially growing cannabis and we knew that he had done so before.

British cannabis grow operation drone footage

Drone footage easily shows the centre bungalow is emitting a lot of heat, indicating a cannabis grow is inside (Image: Lincolnshire Police)

“Where this man lived was surrounded by trees and bushes, so it was actually like a compound. Our intelligence officers spoke with our drone operators and asked if our drone’s thermal imaging could help – we agreed this could work and started our operation at 2am one morning.

“We turned up and flew the drone 400ft across an open field, before hovering 50m from the property. The heat source was obvious and we scrolled through our different filters to highlight the ‘heat’ in a number of different spectrums. The filming from the drone took one minute and 20 seconds, and it was only in the air for five minutes from start to finish.

“From here we passed the footage on to the investigating team who used this to get a court warrant for the first time in Lincolnshire.

“It was great to be able to show this evidence in court as it provides a visual that couldn’t really have been done in any other way.

“We have 10 drone operators within Lincolnshire Police and we are all ecstatic with this result and it is a vindication of the support we have had from our Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable to get this successful prosecution.”

British Police Twitter Feed Drone

Lincolnshire Police use a image of a drone for their Twitter feed

We have 10 drone operators within Lincolnshire Police and we are all ecstatic with this result and it is a vindication of the support we have had from our Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable to get this successful prosecution.
– Inspector Ed Delderfield, Lincolnshire Police

With winter fast approaching, the colder weather means thermal images are even easier to see from above.

Police used drones have been used previously this year to track down a suspected cannabis factory, but this is the first-time footage from a drone has been used to successfully prosecute.

While some may argue that this is a great achievement for the British police force, others have been critical that an underfunded police force is using precious resources and time to chase and prosecute cannabis growers.

Replying to Lincolnshire’s tweet which announced the news, one twitter users commented:

“You bunch of money wasting fools. The war on #cannabis was lost decades ago and can’t ever be won. Please answer a straight question. If a family member was writhing with cancer pain which could only be relieved by cannabis, would you leave them to scream in agony?”

Twitter user anti-cannabis tweet

Twitter user @Che18409097 makes his feelings known about the use of drones to prosecute cannabis growers

They might have a point.

Knife crime offences are at their highest level since 2010 (when the Conservatives took Office) in England and Wales. England and Wales have also seen a 14% increase in the number of murder and manslaughter cases recorded by police in the year since June.

Chart showing increase in violent crime in the UK

With violent crimes on the rise, is policing a drug associated with peace the best use of police time and resources?

The number of robberies also grew by 22% and sexual offences increased by 18%.

There is now concrete evidence that legalising or decriminalising cannabis reduces crime in a society.

A study published in The Economic Journal found that the rate of violent crime (robberies, murders and aggravated assaults) fell by 12.5% in American counties close to the Mexican border after the introduction of medical marijuana laws.

Leading Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in the UK are already calling for a more sensible approach to cannabis.

Discussing the issue earlier in the year, Mike Barton, the PCC for Durham, said those growing a couple of cannabis plants for personal use would not be subject to raids in his jurisdiction.

Durham police are rated as outstanding in their effectiveness by the official police inspectorate.

So, is it time the UK reproached their stance on cannabis?

References and further Reading