Sweden Investigates Drone Flights Over Nuclear Plants as 'National Incident'
While no permit is required from the Swedish Transport Agency for lighter drones, they have to be flown within sight at a certain distance and not over protected objects, such as nuclear power plants.
The Swedish Police are investigating unauthorised drone flights over several nuclear power plants across the Nordic country as a special event.
The police confirmed that drones have been observed over the Forsmark and Oskarshamn nuclear power plants. Drones were also reportedly spotted over the Ringshals nuclear power plant and the closed power plant in Barsebäck, but the police couldn't confirm that information.
According to police spokeswoman Petra Blomqvist, the first observation of a flying object over Forsmark was made on Friday evening and continued for over an hour. According to the police, there is no indication that the drone has landed inside the area of the nuclear power plant.
“These are extremely serious events. We are investigating a possible connection,” Blomqvist said in a statement.
The police decided to handle the incidents as a special national incident, which implies a certain level of interconnection. The incidents and investigations are handled regionally, but are coordinated by the police's national operational department, Noa.
There are currently no suspects in either of the cases, according to the police, which are investigating unauthorised access to protected objects, violations of the Civil Aviation Act and illegal depiction of protected objects. The Armed Forces have been informed about the efforts as well.
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist emphasised that on previous occasions drones have been noted at various protected objects in connection with military exercises.
“This is a thing that happens from time to time. We have also changed the legislation so that this type of drone can be shot down. Now it is up to the police to investigate,” Hultqvist told national broadcaster SVT.
According to experts, though, Sweden's preparedness against drone attacks is insufficient.
“We have not really adapted our way of looking at this type of event to today's reality. We still think of the world as either in peace or at war,” Hans Liwång, associate professor at the Swedish National Defence College told SVT. “The work must start before the event begins, not after,” he added.
According to unconfirmed information published
by the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, it is a question of larger drones, possibly with petrol engines and helicopter-like rotor blades, which may cost up to SEK 1 million ($110,000). Joakim Stenberg, a technician at the drone-focused company UAS Intelligence Sweden, called them “extremely unusual” as only a single company produces them in Sweden. Drones of this type may weigh up to 50 kg and have a range of up to 200 kilometres.
For lighter drones, no permit is required from the Swedish Transport Agency as long they are flown within sight, no higher than 120 meters above the ground and not over crowds or protected objects.