A farmer who had £70,000 worth of high-tech equipment stolen believes a gang spied on his premises with a drone.
A number of GPS units were stolen from tractors and combine harvesters owned by Robert Redman, an agricultural contractor near Thame, Oxfordshire.
He said the thieves, who were caught on CCTV, knew the machines’ precise location and how to gain access.
Thames Valley Police (TVP) said it had received numerous reports of similar GPS thefts since the start of May.
The computer equipment is used to guide and monitor machinery during precision processes such as sowing and harvesting.
Mr Redman said: “I believe it’s an organised group.
“Two weeks ago there was a drone flown over and I believe that was them, casing this premises.
“They knew to the exact tee where they were going.”
The equipment’s manufacturer, John Deere, said its Starfire Receivers and Greenstar in-cab displays are equipped with with PIN protection, “meaning it is impossible to use them if stolen”.
A spokesperson said: “We can only urge owners of all high-value technology items to use the protection provided along with, if necessary, the removal of components to further prevent opportunities for theft.”
Insurance company NFU Mutual said the cost of GPS theft nationwide between January and April this year was more than £500,000 – and had doubled compared with the same period in 2022.
TVP police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber said: “It’s really big business. Since the war in Ukraine there has been a shortage of farm machinery in Eastern Europe and a lot of the stuff that is being stolen in the UK, we are seeing it being tracked across Europe.
“There’s a lot more that needs to be done. There’s legislation going through Parliament which will potentially require manufacturers to use forensic marking. It makes it much harder to sell on and easier for police to track.”