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Portland burglar allegedly used a drone to aid in after-hours food cart robbery

Drones can be used for all manner of applications, from snapping breathtaking photos to racing to inspecting aging infrastructure to … robbing food trucks? While hopefully not the start of a new high-tech crime spree straight out of an episode of Black Mirror, the owners of a pair of food carts in Portland, Oregon recently had their property burglarized by a thief who used a drone to help carry out the alleged crime.

The drone was reportedly employed as a surveillance tool in the robbery of two Piedmont Station food carts, Hapa Howie’s and PDX Dönerländ. The foot cart burglary took place on Tuesday. Hapa Howie’s owner told news station KOIN that, after her cart was burglarized, she checked security footage over the incident. It showed a drone hovering nearby — including close to the locks — prior to the suspected thief appearing and going through her cart. The thief stole business checks, tablets, loose change, and more.

“I’m shocked, angry, and also mildly impressed,” Kiaha Rasmussen, owner of Hapa Howie, told KPTV.

According to Portland police, 34-year-old Christopher Behurst was arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of burglarizing the food carts. He is accused of felony theft and burglary, according to jail records. He was released from custody early Thursday on a bond.

This is just the latest in a series of food cart-related crimes, with the food vendors regularly targeted by thieves. Unfortunately, it’s also indicative of a rise in drone-related criminal activity.

Drones are increasingly used for spying on people, often celebrities, from the sky. In the U.K., a major international airport last year ground to a halt after a troublemaker used a regular consumer drone to disrupt regular service. The drone incident at Gatwick Airport ultimately caused around 1,000 flights to be canceled or diverted. More recently, a fleet of 10 drones attacked a major Saudi-Arabian oil-processing facility. The incident resulted in around half of Saudi Arabia’s daily oil production being suspended, cutting global oil supplies by 5% and causing prices to soar. Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack.

In all of these instances, the modus operandi and the type of drone varies. However, it’s a reminder of how criminals and other wrongdoers will find malicious use-cases for drones as they become more widely available. It’s fortunate that law enforcement has its own ideas for putting drones to work on the side of the good guys.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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