The proliferation of image sharing via social media has often been touted as an opportunity for thieves to gather Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) on potential targets. More recently however, drone footage posted online has provided intricate details to surrounding buildings and environments of interest.

A more comprehensive view than Google Earth or Street View, even innocent pilots taking in the sights have had their online footage scraped and used in planning heists. By looking for mentions or hashtags with #drone, thieves are able to get high-quality footage of a target without arousing suspicion by being physically present near the site.

Observing guard timings, lesser used entryways and open windows, drones are able to observe entire perimeter security from the air – unbeknownst to the operators who then post the footage online for anyone to see.

One of the most recent examples is a fire station support center in Dundee, Scotland, that suffered the loss of equipment worth thousands of pounds after the thieves allegedly used footage of the station from Twitter to plan their heist.

thieves use drones
Increasingly locations are being surveyed from the air, with their footage shared on social media.

A drone operator who goes by the Twitter username ‘The Drone Ranger’ tweeted the overhead footage of the fire trucks taken from above the enclosure. The images were tweeted on March 25th but were later deleted.

Members of the fire station suspect the tweeted images posted by the drone operator were used by the thieves to plan the theft.

The theft was incredibly carried out over a three day spree: The first took place on March 26th from 9.30pm – 10.30pm. The second took place on March 30th around 3.30pm and the third on April 3rd at 8am.

Lockers were compromised and forced open and numerous tools were reported missing. Items compromised in the first theft include power drills, saw, generators and various expensive tools from the facility and the second theft involved the loss of two vehicle batteries from a storage container.

One of the images captured by drones posted by ‘The Drone Ranger’ on Twitter.


The centre was inaugurated just five months ago and costed an estimated £3.7 million. The Dundee centre is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of 348 vehicles belonging to 164 stations across the north of Scotland.

The Scottish Fire And Rescue service spokeswoman refused to comment, due to the ongoing police investigation. Local Police stated their inquiries into the theft, both the drone footage and the physical access, will continue.

Since the incident, security was reported to have been tightened around the facility.

Surely a lesson to other departments not to base security on obscurity, but rather finding ways to minimise their threat surface from OSINT and external prying eyes.