May 22 - The organised theft of copper from homes and building sites has become a global problem in recent years, but German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom has struck back by marking their copper wires with so-called 'artificial DNA' to track down the copper's origin and even its thieves. Jim Drury has more.
It's a drone with a difference. Rather than surveillance, this unmanned vehicle is being used to mark copper cables with artificial DNA. Frustrated by the frequent theft of its valuable cable, German communications giants Deutsche Telekom has turned to science for protection. Artificial genes, created in a laboratory are added to a liquid coating which is painted on existing cables. According to Philipp Cachee, head of forensic science at ATG, those genes are the key to the future identiification of stolen copper. SOUNDBITE: HEAD OF ATG'S FORENSIC SCIENCE DEPARTMENT, PHILIPP CACHEE, SAYING: "The marking consists of three substances: firstly the genetic information. Then we have micro lithographic plates for the immediate identification and we have an ultra-violet fluorescent colouring which, with the assistance of a special light source, enables the marking to become visible." The lithographic plates are smaller than half a millimetre wide, but they contain vital information. SOUNDBITE: HEAD OF ATG'S FORENSIC SCIENCE DEPARTMENT, PHILIPP CACHEE, SAYING: "On these plates, the Deutsche Telekom logo is visible, along with a distinct number which pinpoints the original location of the cable." The artificial DNA penetrates the material, so that even if a cable is burned, traces of DNA remain on the copper, but stay invisible to the thieves and buyers of the stolen goods. Thefts of the precious metal in recent years, have proved costly for Deutsche Telekom, says regional technical director Ruediger Caspari. SOUNDBITE: TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, DEUTSCHE TELEKOM NORTH-EASTERN GERMANY, RUEDIGER CASPARI, SAYING: "The damage was considerable. It amounted to 1.4 million euros in the past three years and the thefts led to considerable disruptions of communication, telecommunication, and data traffic." But copper theft is not just a German problem. It's global, thanks to high prices for scrap metal and the easy access to it from power lines along roads and railway lines. ATG has entered into partnerships with other German companies affected by copper theft...in the hope that their technology will launch a new era in industrial security UPSOT: DRONE TAKING OFF