Farm surveillance for subsidy checking: the case in Europe

Europe's farmers receive payments for maintaining basic standards on the environment, food safety, plant health and animal welfare. In this BBC article "spying on Europe’s farms with satellites and drones" Lawrence Peter discusses the use of UAVs in conjunction with satellite imagery to validate and verify farmers' subsidies without having to send inspectors in person. They are not used everywhere: Austria does not use them, on the grounds that the shadows cast by very mountainous terrain sometimes make satellite images inaccurate. And Scotland, unlike the rest of the UK, decided against satellites because of the difficulty of getting enough clear weather for flyovers.


  • Agriculture accounted for 42% of the EU's budget in 2011 - about three-quarters of that went on direct payments to farmers, totalling 44bn euros (£37bn; $58bn)
  • In each EU country, at least 5% of farms must be inspected every year - and many check more than 5%
  • Satellites carried out about 70% of all inspections in 2010
  • Growth of satellite monitoring has cut number of infringements
  • EU officials say fraud accounts for only a small fraction of the irregularities - in most cases farmers overclaim because of a miscalculation