Lancs police use drones over Cuadrilla’s fracking site

180914 Lancs drone leaflet

Leaflets about drone operations around Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 14 September 2018

Lancashire Police said today it was using drones to film the area around Cuadrilla’s fracking site.

Leaflets distributed by the force to local homes said the use of drones was “in the interest of public safety” and part of the police operation covering the fracking site at Preston New Road, near Blackpool.

Cuadrilla has said it still expects to start fracking the first of two shale gas wells by the end of the month. This will be the first fracking operation in the UK since 2011 and the first fracture of horizontal shale gas wells.

The police leaflets said the drones were conducting essential aerial photography and video:

“Please be aware that police officer drone pilots will be in your area conducting essential aerial photography and video. This is in compliance with the civil aviation air navigation order regulations.

“The drone activity is in the interest of public safety and forms part of the police operation covering the fracking site on Preston New Road.

“Please be assured that we will continue to ensure a consistent and coordinated policing response and ensure a balance between the rights of people to lawfully protest, together with the rights of the wider public.”

“Scrutiny is alarming”

The leaflets prompted concern among opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation. A spokesperson for the Gate Camp community obervation post opposite the Preston New Road site said:

“For peaceful campaigners to come under this sort of scrutiny is both alarming and intimidatory. The method of monitoring is demonstrative of entirely disproportionate policing that would not be expected unless people were suspected of committing the most serious of crimes.

“We are law-abiding people, exercising our human rights to protest and are shocked by this latest chapter in the erosion of our civil liberties by Lancashire Police. Our worry is that the impending drone surveillance is designed to frighten people away and stifle our ability to raise safety concerns.”

A spokesperson from Frack Free Lancashire said:

“Today’s police drone notices which were posted through residents’ letterboxes, many of whom are also campaigners against fracking, appears to be yet another level of unnecessary policing that is unjustified and can only be for the benefit of the fracking industry.

“It also begs the question: who is paying for this additional surveillance? With police funding at an all-time low and no refunds are due to Lancashire Police from central government for the ongoing protest policing costs, where is the money coming from to add another intrusive level of police monitoring?

DrillOrDrop asked Lancashire Police how many drones would be used, when they were first deployed, why they had been introduced now and how the footage would be used.

The Force replied:

“Lancashire Police have secured the use of a drone to provide more accurate information on the fracking operation at Preston New Road.

“The birds eye view will enable us to assess the impact of things like traffic congestion and road closures on the local community and will enhance the safety of all concerned.”

18 months of protest

There have been almost daily protests outside the Preston New Road site since Cuadrilla began work in January 2017.

This week, an anti-fracking campaigner climbed onto a tanker outside the site around midday on 12 September and stayed up until about 3am on 13 September. He was arrested when he came down.

The latest police figures show 13 people were arrested in July 2018. This was an increase on June, when there were no arrests, but much lower than the 95 recorded in July 2017. This brings the total arrests to 364. There were 18 charges in July 2018, bringing the total to 345.

Lancs arrests Jan 2017 to Jul 2018

Updated 17/9/2018 with Lancashire Police response


51 replies »

  1. The anti-frackers have been using drones for over a year. I am not surprised, but I hope the wicked police drone is armed and authorised to defend itself.

    • Peter. You’ve been watching too much sci fi. Police drones are neither armed or able to actively defend themselves.

      Peter Roberts.
      Some drones can fly in adverse conditions, inc snow, rain and winds.

      Interested to see if they file NOTAMS though.

  2. The report about the brave, committed community defender and the lorry omits to mention that the driver drove in a manner considered by onlookers to be dangerous and was also reported to the police in attendance for having several illegal tyres!

  3. Also drones can only be flown safely in dry conditions with only light breezes. Good luck for the coming autumn and winter with this surveillance tactic. Please don’t crash too many as Lancashire council payers will have paid for them, including myself!

    • Driving with illegal tyres is a motoring offence and the driver is responsible for that .Maybe DVSA need to be informed naming the firm and these vehicles been pulled over regularly .Bald tyres can also be dangerous on the roads especially in wet weather.Police could have dealt with this and should have

  4. “For peaceful campaigners to come under this sort of scrutiny is both alarming and intimidatory“

    Does your definition of “peacefull” include climbing on top of a lorry and preventing someone going about their lawful business….. if it does then the police flying a drone over your head shouldn’t be too much of a problem to you, should it? Which behaviour is more “alarming and intimidatory”?

    • Peaceful doesn’t exclude that, I think people assume peaceful in reference to protest means the last definition, whereas it should refer to the first two. Hence “non-violent direct action”

      “Peaceful: without violence, free from war or violence, quiet and calm”

    • One person climbed onto a truck. This drone will photograph or record everyone irrespective of their actions. It appears to be one more attempt at intimidation by the police.

      • Kisheny. What’s pro Russian about wanting to prevent harm to our children, grandchildren, community, environment, countryside, local,jobs in agriculture and tourism? Surely the big bad Russians would be happy to see harm come to us all. By the government’s own admission, we get less than 1% of our gas from Russia, So I don’t think they’ll care whether we have shale gas or not.

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