Chinese pig farm attempts to block criminal drones with signal jammer, accidentally disrupts planes

Our Foreign Staff
Gangs have been targeting pig farms in China in an effort to profit from an African swine disease crisis - Bloomberg
Gangs have been targeting pig farms in China in an effort to profit from an African swine disease crisis - Bloomberg

One of China's biggest animal feed producers resorted to using a radio transmitter to block drones being used by crooks to spread African swine fever at its farms. But the plan went awry when the device jammed the navigation systems of planes flying overhead.

Criminals are said to be faking outbreaks of swine fever on farms, as well as using drones to drop contaminated pork products on them, as part of a racket to profit from the health scare. The aim is to force farmers to sell the animals to them cheaply, before selling them on as healthy stock at much higher prices. 

African swine fever poses no risk to humans but is fatal to pigs. China - the world's top producer and consumer of pork - has seen its pig herd shrink by 40 percent over the past year as a result of the crisis. That in turn has driven pork prices up, one of the factors behind the country's recent rapid inflation growth.

A drone - Credit: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Drones have allegedly been used to drop contaminated meat on pig farms Credit: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

State-backed news website The Paper reported last week that a pig farming unit of Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group had violated civil aviation rules when the transmitter it installed to protect its farm disrupted GPS signal in the area.

It was discovered after flights complained about losing signal while flying over the area. 

The company confirmed the incident on Friday. "To prevent external people from using drones to drop pork with African swine fever virus, [one of our units] violated regulations by using a drone control equipment set," the company said. 

"We broke related radio regulations, although that was unintentional," it said, adding that it had surrendered the equipment to authorities and was willing to accept a penalty.

Authorities called for a crackdown on illegal suppliers of such equipment, saying it can only be used by public security departments, national security agencies and radio regulators.