Drones used to bust giant rave flaunting UK COVID-19 restrictions

Scores of people were arrested in southern England Sunday after drone-flying police busted revelers at a giant rave violating the country’s continuing COVID-19 restrictions. Footage from the craft showed countless cars parked along roads abutting the pastureland used for the illegal party, aiding them in organizing moves to break it up. 

Drone confirms giant rave, allows police to prepare raid

Though the visuals provided by the drone flyover were important in allowing police to verify the infraction and plan their intervention, participating ravers certainly didn’t do much to mask their COVID-19 flaunting fête. Over 2,000 people flocked to the flat expanse of farmland outside Steyning, Sussex – just a few miles from the area’s chalk coastal cliffs – and filmed themselves dancing to loud music echoing throughout the area. With parking options along the narrow country roads limited, the seemingly endless line of cars left along the fields provided more unmistakable evidence for the drone to take in.

The footage allowed Sussex police to ring the area and seal routes out before moving in to disperse the unauthorized party. Though the UK had planned on a continued easing of COVID-19 restrictions after pubs and other indoor businesses were permitted to reopen in mid-May, an ensuing spike in Delta variant infections – now 90% of all new cases – caused the government to delay further relaxation. As a result, gatherings of more than 30 people are prohibited without a waiver from authorities. 

To make things at the Sussex rave even worse, many of the revelers were several sheets to the wind – and on a variety of substances – by the time cops weighed in. The result was at least two get-away collisions with advancing police cars, and several minor injuries from scuffles. A number of other departing drivers were arrested on DUI charges, with police confiscating a fairly heavy haul of drugs and equipment used to broadcast music around the rave.

Drones becoming useful police tool to monitor partying crowds

Given that particular mix of factors, it was not entirely surprising that a Sussex police statement noted its forces “were met with significant hostility” while moving in, with “one officer… assaulted while attempting to detain an individual resisting arrest.” By the time it was over Sunday evening, 50 of the estimated 2,000 partiers had been booked, with organizers of the event risking fines of $13,890.

Condemning what she called “the mindless actions” of participants, Sussex Detective Superintendent Juliet Parker promised even stronger action against unauthorized rave organizers who try testing police resolve in future.

“These individuals have demonstrated a complete disregard for the local community, the heritage of the area and the existing COVID-19 regulations,” she said. “We will not tolerate behaviour like this within Sussex, as can be seen by the high volume of arrests made over the course of the event. We will continue to robustly investigate this illegal activity; seeking to further arrest and prosecute wherever possible.”

Using drones to keep an eye on raves and other impromptu festivities isn’t new. Earlier this month a UK police drone recorded an illegal street party that resulted in the stabbing of a local youth. Just last week, an uncrewed aerial vehicle was used to monitor crowds at Kentucky’s aptly named “Redneck Rave.”

Photo: The Daily Mail

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