Satellites, Drones Spy on Europe's Farms

EU using eyes in the sky to spot subsidy fraud
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2012 2:17 AM CST
Updated Feb 8, 2012 2:45 AM CST
EU farmers need to keep their land in "good agricultural and environmental condition" to qualify for subsidies.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Satellites and spy drones are scanning farmland in the European Union, and their findings can lead to something nearly as damaging as an air strike: a subsidy cut. The EU spends billions every year in farm subsidies, and eyes in the sky are increasingly being used as a tool to search for fraud and waste.Some 70% of EU farm checks are now being done by satellite, although Austria says the shadows cast by mountains make the checks inaccurate, and Scotland has decided its climate is just too cloudy for the technology to be useful.

Drones, considered to give more accurate results than satellites, are being tested in France, Italy, and Spain, and the EU is seeking to relax restrictions on civilian drone use to give farms greater scrutiny. The drone use worries privacy groups, but many farmers say they prefer remote sensing to have inspectors on their land. "It''s modern life, really—I don't think there's anything you can do about it," a farmer in England tells the BBC. American farmers may soon need to watch the skies as well: Congress has approved expanded drone flights over the US. (Read more drones stories.)

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