Bad news for drone owners in Sweden! The country has now effectively ban camera drones in its airspace. And if you thought you could bring your drone on your next trip to Sweden, well you better think twice unless you’ve got a permit.
Sweden is known for its strict surveillance laws. But knowing that there is however no law against Swedes taking pictures in public, it comes as a surprise that the country’s Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that camera-equipped drones qualify as surveillance devices, and as such, they can be used for personal monitoring, which infringes on people’s right to privacy. Whether you are a wedding, sports, or nature photographer, or even a journalist, you cannot use drones now without getting into legal troubles.
However, this ban comes with a couple of exceptions. In the first exception, law enforcement agencies are allowed to use drones in relation to accidents and crime prevention. The second situation where you might be allowed to use a camera-equipped drone, is if you possess a license. But that poses one problem. To obtain a permit to fly a drone, one must pay to apply for one, and the cost is quite expensive. And that person is not even guaranteed to get his license after spending so much money.
On the other hand, the same court in Sweden found in a linked ruling that cars or bikes equipped with cameras are not illegal. The ruling is so, since a camera mounted on a bike or a dash camera inside a car, goes where the person behind the wheel goes. Drones can be operated from afar, even when they are out of the sight of their operator.
This ruling constitutes a massive blow to the industry of aerial photography and the industry group UAS Sweden (Unmanned Aerial System) has made it known that this would cost some 5,000 jobs. Companies who rely on aerial photography will incur a loss in income for sure, seeing how no less than 20,000 drones units were sold in Sweden in 2014 and that about a 1,000 permits were delivered for commercial use. Filmmakers who use drones extensively to make a living are also now facing a hurdle if they want to carry on doing their job.
The announcement of this ruling from the Administrative Court of Sweden has been met with a lot of confusion but there may not be any change soon. In the meantime, all the drone enthusiasts and professionals will have to go through the process of applying for a license if they want to fly their drones again.
Images used with the permission of Yatish Ramdharrysing & Kevin Neergheen.