22:44 GMT07 July 2020
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    Remote-controlled aircraft have become increasingly common within the military, but the legislation is lagging behind. At present, the Nordic Defense Ministries are considering law changes to make it easier to meet uninvited guests from above, after an unidentified drone disturbed the US-led BALTOPS exercise in Sweden.

    The US-led NATO exercise, in which Finnish and Swedish soldiers drilled landing operations with their colleagues from the US, Britain and Germany, reportedly received unwelcome visitors from above in mid-June. During the joint landing on the Swedish island of Utö in the Stockholm archipelago, unidentified remote-controlled aircraft flew into the restricted area, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported.

    "We have information that an unmanned aircraft flew over Utö on two occasions at night," Armed Forces Press Officer Philip Simon told Dagens Nyheter.

    Unmanned, remotely piloted aircraft have become regulars in crises and warfare. Even the Swedish military earlier purchased various drone types for their mission in Afghanistan. However, the drone that was detected over Utö was not part of the exercise and therefore baffled the Swedish Army. At present, the incident is being investigated by the Swedish military. Since the drones flew at a relatively high altitude of over 1,000 meters and did it at night, foreign surveillance was suspected to be behind the flight.

    According to Dagens Nyheter, an unmanned aircraft with night cameras and infrared sensors can obtain any useful information about military units, staff, equipment and tactics. The Swedish military leaders were reportedly at a loss as how to react when reports of unwelcome airborne "invaders" came in to the headquarters. However, this is not the first time a drone has perplexed the Swedish military. Last year, a similar incident occurred in southern Sweden, as a media company used a drone for making pictures without permission during last year's edition of BALTOPS, Dagens Nyheter reported.

    Over the last decade, authorities in the Nordic countries have reported numerous violations of their airspace, but none of the reports has mentioned drones until now. Small unmanned aircraft are notoriously difficult to detect, as they are rarely detected by the radar, only seen with the naked eye.

    The Baltic countries, however, already have a record of unmanned drone visits. Last year, soldiers at the Estonian airbase Ämari reportedly opened fire on a helicopter drone with a camera, which was at once pinned on Russia. Subsequently, Latvian military bosses authorized personnel to shoot down drones over military training grounds.

    Defense authorities in Finland are currently pondering a revision of the legislation on unmanned aerial vehicles.

    "This is a very topical issue, as the number of drones has increased together with changes in our environment. At the moment, we are investigating legal changes that need to be done," Hanna Nordström of the Finnish Defense Ministry told the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.


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