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Swedes ban camera spy-drones for anything but crime fighting

Bike-mounted cams on the ground are just fine, though

By Iain Thomson, 25 Oct 2016

The Swedish judiciary has ruled that camera drones are surveillance devices, meaning their pilots will have to get a seldom-issued permit to use them for private flights.

The judgement from the highest court in the land looked at two cases, one against private drones and the other against a camera mounted on a bicycle. The judges found that the bike-mounted camera is fine – because it goes where its owner goes – but that airborne drones were capable of spying things out of sight and therefore must be characterized as surveillance devices.

"The Court further found that the camera can be used for personal monitoring, although it is not the purpose," the ruling reads. "The camera is therefore to be regarded as a surveillance camera."

Private drone operators will now have to apply for a permit stating that the use of the camera drone is for monitoring personal property. Since that excludes the vast majority of drone flight for things like racing, nature photography, and the odd wedding, fliers and the industry association are in full Viking mode over the proposal.

"UAS Sweden held a board meeting and has set up a plan to forcibly try to get policymakers at all levels to realize how this wrong ruling strikes against an entire industry that employs thousands of employees and companies with billions in turnover," it said in a statement.

They are not alone. Local press in Sweden is up in arms because the ruling doesn't allow for camera drones to be used in news reporting. Instead, quick-snapping quadrocopters will be the purview of the police and those who can make a convincing case for a permit.

The only question now is whether or not Swedish police will have the means – or the inclination – to try to prosecute drone fliers. It could well be they have neither. ®

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