16:13 GMT +314 December 2017
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    A Norwegian soldier, his armoured vehicle decorated with a Vicking helmet

    Drone-Wary Nordics Demand Harsher Anti-Surveillance Laws Amid Espionage Fears

    © AFP 2017/ ANTONIO SCORZA
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    Last week, the Nordic nations experienced an unparalleled drone incursion. Possibly unrelated drone observations were made by servicemen in Sweden, Finland and Norway. Today, calls for harsher anti-drone laws are being heard from across Scandinavia.

    Last week, Norway came under a full-blown drone invasion. Unfamiliar drones were sighted during the two-week-long military exercise Rein 2, which took place in Troms County in northern Norway and numbered some 5,000 troops, among some 200 US Marines. At the same time, drones were also observed over the Østerdalen training grounds in southern Norway.

    "For us, this represents a security threat in several domains. First and foremost, physically, as we fly drones and helicopters ourselves. It is very unfortunate that others keep flying in the same area at the same time," Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ole Johan Skogmo told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.

    ​According to Skogmo, the observations clearly broke the rules for drone operations, which forbid any civil activity within 150 meters from personnel and materiel.

    "It could have been actors who have pure intelligence-related needs and seek detailed information on how we operate or train," Skogmo said, admitting that it also could have been curious locals who happened to be careless.

    Today, Norwegian military officials demand harsher rules for the use of high-tech equipment, which may possibly be utilized for espionage and intelligence. The current regulations, which allowed drone incidents like last week's go unpunished, was not good enough, army officials said.

    "Given today's threats and the level of technological progress, it is natural to revise the laws and regulations concerning our business," Brigadier and Chief of Staff Ingrid Margrethe Gjerde told NRK.

    By its own admission, Norwegian Defense Staff would like to stop the use of high-tech equipment for espionage, intelligence, planning of terrorist acts and surveillance of military installations. A ban should inter alia include unidentified drones.

    "Our job is to always ensure that our activities and Army compounds, which are important to national security, are sheltered and safeguarded against those who have bad intentions," Gjerde said.

    Gjerde believes that the current law on information control is outdated. According to her, it should be supplemented with a ban on photography and information retrieval to protect military sites and facilities. According to Gjerde, this ban should be effectively enforced by police authorities.

    Incidentally, the very same last week, the major Swedish Swenex exercise was visited by unidentified drones. The appearance of remote-controlled visitors interrupted the maneuvers and prompted Swedish soldiers to swap their training blanks to live ammunition to shoot down the intruders, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported. The fact that some of the drones observed over Swenex were equipped with position lights visible in darkness led to speculations that a "major superpower" was behind the encroachment, whose aim was to deliberately show its presence.

    Shortly after the Swedish "drone confessions" about a number of drone visits in the course of the past six months, even the Finnish Armed Forces admitted to drone sightings during military exercises. Colonel Vesa Mäntylä assured Finnish national broadcaster Yle that most cases featured commercially available drones used for hobbies and amateur videos and represented no significant security threat.

    Nevertheless, Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö called for a legislation update to meet the potential threat from unmanned aerial vehicles. According to Niinistö, drones expose the Finnish Defense to risks, threats and direct danger, whereas current laws are too vague and function poorly. At present, it remains unclear whether it is legal or not to shoot down a drone over military grounds, Yle reported.

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    Tags:
    espionage, drone, armed forces, Jussi Niinistö, Scandinavia, Finland, Norway, Sweden
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