Theft by Drone

This Shared Leaning article is reproduced courtesy of Network Rail


On the 25th February 2021 Works Delivery Signalling team noticed a ‘drone’ flying above their work site. The work site is located on a remote crossing on the WIS (Wickford and Southminster Branch) line at 38m 20ch – commonly known as ‘Big Hill Level Crossing’.

Thinking this was the local farmer or land-owner’s drone they thought no more of it and carried on working.

On the 26h February 2021 the Works Delivery Senior Construction Manager received a report of a stolen 3-ton excavator from Big Hill Level Crossing. British Transport Police (BTP) were immediately contacted, and officers were dispatched to investigate the theft.

In addition to the BTP, the vehicle tracking company were also contacted and provided details of the location of the stolen excavator. It was finally located in a stolen lorry (see photo).

However, during the recovery of the excavator a drone was spotted hovering near by. BTP subsequently followed the drone which returned to the owner/ operator who was sat in a ‘stolen’ pick-up truck. The occupant was subsequently arrested on suspicion of theft.


  • Stolen excavator – recovered
  • Stolen lorry – recovered
  • Stolen pick-up truck – recovered
  • One arrest for suspicion of theft

Further Investigations

  • Captial Delivery report that there have been other known cases of drones being used to scout areas before thefts have taken place in the Anglia Route.
  • Local BTP are aware of the increase in thefts from construction sites and are keen to establish more data about our key and high-risk construction sites to support additional patrols.

Key Lessons Learned

  • Be vigilant for drones hovering over your work site – report any occurrence to the BTP on 0800 405040 and record all unusual or drone activity – noting date and time and how long observed for
  • Think about how secure your compound/ sites are… what is installed to prevent unauthorized entry or theft?
  • Consider additional lighting, movement sensors and alarms
  • Consider removing all high value plant from site when not being used – or consider installing trackers on high value plant
  • Consider covering all high value plant with a dark covering/ tarpaulin when not in use. note that if this is at risk of blowing onto railway it needs to be well secured in place.
  • Report all suspicious activity to the BTP – don’t take chances – don’t take risks

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