More than forty thousand pounds worth of drone equipment belonging to two UK operators has been stolen from an airfield in the Irish Republic. Now a reward of £2,500 is being offered for information leading to its recovery.
The gear was stolen from Weston Airport near Dublin on Saturday October 10th. Apart from a drone, gimbal, cameras, lenses, tablets and ancillary equipment including a generator, the thieves also got away with two Macbook Pro laptops, one containing irreplaceable wedding photos.
The equipment, belonging to Ascension Films and Surface 2 Air Media from the London area, was to have been used for a mega budget commercial shoot for a big American client. Despite trying to buy and hire replacement gear, the companies had to pull out of the drone shoot the night before filming was due to start. Because another specialist heavy-lift drone operator couldn't be found in time the shoot went ahead without one.
Locked van broken into at airport car park
Heliguy customer David Waite of Surface 2 Air Media had taken the van on the 3 am ferry from Liverpool. At Dublin Airport he picked up Ascension's Ibrahim Serra-Mohammed before they travelled to Weston Airport at Lucan just 8 miles west of Dublin. It's a small, general aviation airfield that specialises in executive flights. David and Ibrahim had an appointment for a flight assessment so that he could get an exemption from the Irish Aviation Authority which would enable them to work.
They pulled into the car park and, while David and Ibrahim went to meet an IAA representative, their technician who'd travelled with them grabbed a coffee. The Mercedes Vito van was locked and deadlocked but eight minutes later a van pulled up alongside. Thieves broke into the driver's door lock and then spent another 8 minutes transferring gear from one van to the other.
[caption id="attachment_3089" align="aligncenter" width="555"]
Weston Airport, Dublin. The car park is at the right of the picture.[/caption]
"We know how long it took them," said David. "The site had 5 security cameras but two of them weren't working. The three that were operating showed the van arriving and leaving but not the number plate. The two security guards claimed they hadn't seen anything suspicious.
"Because I had collected Ascension's gear it was all on top of mine so most of the equipment that was taken was Ibrahim's."
As you can see from the list, a lot of the items stolen are specialist kit. David says some of the nine lenses are not standard or have been adapted. There was a Freefly MoVi M15 gimbal and a Vulcan Mantis octocopter as well as two Blackmagic cameras.
Among the boxes at the bottom of the load which weren't taken were two drones - a Freefly ALTA which David had recently bought from us here at Heliguy, and a Vulcan Raven.
Filming was due to start on the Tuesday so David and Ibrahim hoped that they might be able to get together replacement gear within a couple of days. They managed to hire in another MoVi M15 but in the end too much was missing. David says they use 40-50 Li-Po batteries, enough for about 20 flight packs but, without the generator and particularly the power supply, they wouldn't have been able to keep up with the charging that would have been needed for a big shoot like this one.
A few specialist cables were stolen too and they were vital for their broadcast standard down-links used by the director and focus puller among others.
"Another crew member flew out on Sunday and managed to bring some items with him but by late on Monday we had to pull the plug," David said.
"We were gutted. This would have been one of our biggest jobs but because we weren't able to work we will now have to pick up all the costs including travel and accommodation which would normally have been covered by the commissioning company."
David did get his wallet back though. A man found it in the street on the other side of Dublin minus the cash but still with his driving licence and credit cards inside. One of the Macbook Pros had the only copy of Ibrahim's precious wedding photos on them which he is desperate to get back. But the signs aren't good. David says Apple think all of the phones, tablets and Macbooks have been wiped.
If you know anything about any of the stolen drone equipment or if you're offered anything for sale get in touch with the police and contact Ibrahim at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 7960 958607. The police station dealing with the incident is Lucan Garda Station on 00 353 1 666 7300.