Drones Drones & Vehicles Maker News
Stolen Drones: This Year’s Hot Holiday Gift?
Pop-up
Boarded up window at Make: pop-up store. Photograph by Lisa Martin

At midnight on Sunday, December 6th, an unknown number of robbers broke into the Make: pop-up store in San Francisco, dislodging the shatter proof window and stealing nine Parrot Bebop drones (with a retail price of $499 each). Although the store sells a number of products carried on Maker Shed, the Parrot Bebop — the most expensive drone carried in the store (though not the most expensive item) — appears to be the only product targeted.

Besides being victimized, this is an interesting crime to us for what it might indicate about the growing demand for drones. Rather than stealing jewelry, cash, or laptops, these thieves took drones! This would have been exceptional even a few years ago. Does this mean that there is a particular demand for drones on the black market? Or are are they simply mainstream enough that a thief might reasonably expect to be able to resell them without suspicion? Personally, I think the latter is probably closest to the truth, but this is just speculation.

bebop drone
The Bebop is a compact, capable drone with an HD camera built into its fuselage.

Also interesting: for those who opt in, flights on Parrot drones are recorded, uploaded, and shared on Parrot’s service  (yes, we can and do watch you test your new drone out in your living rooms and back yards). It’s interesting to us to think that we might at some point be able to watch the flights from these stolen — probably not to catch the robbers, but perhaps just to see where they ended up. We’ve asked Parrot if this might be possible, and will update this when we find out.

We don’t yet know if other Parrot Bebop drones are being targeted for theft on a bigger scale, or drones from different vendors — if you’ve heard of this happening elsewhere, let us know.

Also please note that our stolen drones, as retail stock, would not have been FAA registered per their new rules, but this information may be useful to a drone flyer whose personal Parrot Bebop had been stolen.

The Make: pop-up store is located at 345 Sutter St. just a block from San Francisco’s famous Union Square, where designer brands and retail stores cluster around a foot-traffic heavy central square. The store opened on November 19th and will close its doors January 15th. While Maker Shed regularly sells goods at Maker Faires, this was the first time the company has opened a brick-and-mortar pop-up store.

The investigation into the robbery is ongoing; meanwhile, additional security measures have been put in place.

5 thoughts on “Stolen Drones: This Year’s Hot Holiday Gift?

    1. Right. What’s not yet known (to me at least) is how someone is registered when they buy a drone on the private market. The new rules state that retail purchases will require the customer to register. For this part, I have a little bit of homework to do.

  1. Hmm, bit weird that there’s a checkbox to make your drone flight videos public!

    Did you not have 15 CCTV cameras and demo spycams running?

    Shatterproof windows are very flexible. This is what the robbers exploited – they should always be drilled and riveted.

  2. “Also please note that our stolen drones, as retail stock, would not have been FAA registered per their new rules”

    Where’d you get that idea? The Parrot Bebop weighs 400g with battery and anything heavier than 250g must be registered. True, the pending regulations don’t require them to be registered until sold, but the people who stole them would have been responsible to register them if they’d purchased them, not the retail establishment. This theft may either have been one that would have occurred even without this pending registration requirement or one that occurred because the thieves don’t understand that the pending registration requirement is the responsibility of the drone purchaser, not the retail establishment. They could have done what most fools planning to do stupid, unsafe things with drones will most likely do, buy the drone and then simply not register it.

    “but this information may be useful to a drone flyer whose personal Parrot Bebop had been stolen.”

    I’m not even sure I know what that means. The R/C pilot number (according to the pending FAA rules, the drone isn’t registered, the pilot is; the pilot’s number is then put on anything he/she flies that weights over 250g) which is to be marked by the owner on anything he/she flies that weighs over 250g can be sanded off or painted over. The number is not an engraved number unless the owner engraves it into the plastic themselves. Even that can be covered up. And regardless of marking, your stolen drone is about as likely to be recovered as most other stolen things; in other words, not likely at all.

Comments are closed.

Tagged

A typical day for Lisa includes: getting up to see the sunrise, bicycling, interning at Make:, reading and writing short stories, and listening to audiobooks and podcasts for hours while working on projects or chores.

View more articles by Lisa Martin