YLE reports from Finland on how the government there plans to bring in a legislative change that would authorize police and prison officials to bring down unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in sensitive areas such as prisons and accident scenes.
The government in Finland took serious notice of the issue sometime in March following reports that drones were used to smuggle drugs into prison and that the unmanned vehicles had also been found to have smuggled cigarettes across the Finnish-Russian border. That’s when Finland’s Interior Ministry proposed giving police the right to shoot down drones.
According to Justice Ministry legal counsellor Juho Martikainen, the legal reform would allow law enforcement authorities to use devices to disrupt drones in flight by jamming radio signals to either make the unmanned craft turn to seek a signal or fall to the earth. Martikainen said that there have been reported cases of drones having created disruptions at prisons in Riihimäki and Vantaa, both in southern Finland.
He noted that some drone explorations are driven by curiosity or voyeurism, but added that drones may also be used for transporting items.”There have been cases when drugs have been flown into prison compounds,” Martikainen explained.
The government wants to empower its police force enabling them to bring down drones in situations where it is unavoidable to maintain public safety, to prevent crime and to protect the privacy of individuals at accident sites. Police chief inspector Sami Hätönen said that a legislative amendment would give police the possibility of using technology to restrict drones, something that has not been previously written into the law.
According to Hätönen, in the past police have had to respond to calls involving drones causing disruptions; however it has not been clear how officers can respond to such situations, he said. That be so, on a concerned note, he said that signal jamming comes with risks given that it is difficult to predict how a drone will react when its radio signal is blocked. “It can cause uncontrolled damage. If we use it in police operations we will do so only after careful consideration,” Hätönen added. The chief inspector shared that in future police will continue to primarily tackle the problem of disruptive drones by seeking out their operators and intervening in their activities.
The Transport and Communications Ministry is also mulling over implementing an all-out ban on drones in some areas, such as in the vicinity of prison facilities.