The drone industry was stunned last fall, when Sweden’s Supreme Administrative Court decided that drones carrying cameras should be classified as surveillance equipment – and outlawed. The ruling came after examination of Sweden’s strict privacy laws; many of which have not been updated since 1979. In equating all drones with cameras, commercial and recreational alike, as surveillance tools the country effectively banned their commercial use.
A few months later, industry outcry seemed to influence the court to soften it’s position, allowing the use of camera drones with permits. Professional drone operators complain that the complex permitting system still limits their ability to work; and is hopeful that a more thorough reversal of the law will be examined next year.
In the meantime, drone operators are making the effort to apply for permits – and some agencies are proving the point that drones are critical equipment. Missing People Sweden has applied for a permit across the country, Sputnik news reports, and has appeared on Swedish Radio to emphasize the importance of drones in search and rescue operations. The non-profit organization designed to help families and police form search parties for missing persons says that drones are critical time savers, and can work instead of dogs and people in difficult terrain…such as that in the northern part of the country.
“Sometimes hours may be critical,” Maria Sharma of Missing Persons told Swedish Radio.
It’s not the first time that the Swedish government has been called out for the damage that the drone ban can do to a variety of industries and applications. While the Swedish Confederation of Housing Associations were forced to temporarily halt roof inspections using drones, they have now received a permit to resume. Other industries, however, have not fared well. Applications for permits for real estate photography and other marketing efforts have often been refused, even by local municipalities. The Swedish drone advocacy group UAS Sweden estimates that the ban may cost the country up to 3,000 jobs.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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