February 8, 2012
Farmers who claim more EU subsidies than they should, or who break Common Agricultural Policy rules, are now more likely to be caught out by a camera in the sky than an inspector calling with a clipboard. How do they feel about being watched from above?
But Europe’s farms cost taxpayers billions of euros in subsidies each year, and EU agricultural inspectors are turning to technology to improve their patchy record on preventing fraud and waste.
Satellites have already been in use for several years, and drones are currently undergoing trials.
Scanning a farm with a satellite costs about one third as much as sending an inspector on a field visit – £115 ($180; 150 euros) rather than £310 ($490; 400 euros), says the UK’s Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which is responsible for disbursing the subsidies in the UK and checking for irregularities.