Finnish Defense Forces to Recruit Drone Pilots for Border Protection
According to reports by Finnish public broadcaster YLE, the Finnish government is looking to heavily adopt drones as crucial component of public services. Finland’s military is looking to recruit drone pilots for a new unit that would be used for security and surveillance purposes. This does not really come as a great surprise given the sheer number of reported incidents of smuggling goods using drones across the 1,340km (832-mile) border Finland shares with Russia.
In July 2017, the border guard received reports of drone sightings in Penttilä, south-east Finland, and a few days later found a crashed drone and 45 packs of cigarettes in the forest. It was the first-known case of smuggling by drone from Russia to Finland and was an aviation offense, since the whole eastern border is a restricted airspace, EFR100, with any drone flights requiring prior permission from the Finnish defense forces.
Finnish General Headquarters chief communications officer Max Arhippainen acknowledged that the military is conducting small-scale research into the use of commercial drones stressing that the decision about the formation of the new unit has yet to be made.
According to Helsinki newspaper Ilta-Sanomat the military authorities contacted individuals who sought permission from the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi) for drone flying. The military’s letter lays out the criteria for the involvement of interested candidates.
- Finnish citizen not flying drones for the police or the emergency services already.
- Have completed national service.
- Provisionally agree to attend reservist training roughly once a year.
With currently have around 50 drones in operation the Finnish Border Guard announced their intention to use drones for daily patrolling work after a successful initial trial period in late 2017.
The drones’ potential was recently demonstrated by the Finnish police, when they located an elderly man lost in the forest in North Karelia using a drone with a thermal-imaging camera. The operation was a first time search and rescue using drones.
Trafi runs droneinfo.fi to keep drone users updated about restricted areas and no-fly zones. Trafi has also launched an app that allows drone pilots to see nearby prohibited airspace while their device is in flight.
Trafi implements temporary no-fly zones for events with large crowds or when the authorities require the airspace for their own surveillance. For instance on December 6 2017, Finnish Independence Day, Trafi introduced a no-fly zone over the centre of Helsinki and the police deployed 22 drones to monitor crowds. This was the first time large-scale drone operation which proved successful enough to be repeated this year.
One legal challenge common to the Finnish military, border guard and police was their lack of authority to take down drones by force, even if the devices are being flown in a dangerous fashion. In November, the government proposed a legal reform to give the police power to down disruptive drones.
A new law will be implemented from January 1, 2019 for the Finnish defence forces allowing them “to temporarily take control of, by force or with technological devices, to prevent the use of or otherwise interfere with the course of” drones that fly in any area designated for military use.