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Norwegian Officials On Edge Over Russian Drone Enthusiasts

Courts Deny Appeal for Drone Photography “Hobbyist” Under Suspicions of Espionage

The actions of Two Norwegian courts have highlighted an interesting UAV issue as of late, reminding operators to take care when operating near sensitive areas lest they be suspected of espionage - or a reminder to avoid espionage altogether.

One Russian will remain in Norwegian custody as ordered by a Hordaland appeals court, the accused’s argument denied. He claimed that he was unaware that his use of drones violated sanctions against Russian citizens operating drones in Norwegian airspace. He maintained that he knew nothing about such prohibitions, but the court remains nonplussed. 

 In a similar case, a court in Finnmark was recently petitioned by local police to retain a 50 year old Russian citizen inspected while passing through the international border of Storskog.  The Russian man drew the attention of border personnel while crossing with 2 drones, a handful of hard drives, 3 passports, and a “large quantity of encrypted photographic material.” The man insists he was merely traveling on holiday throughout the Norwegian coast, enjoying scenery and recording interesting real estate along the way. He has given police access to the photos taken using his UAV arguing that he’s merely a hobbyist, but Norwegian government officials remain unconvinced. The court accepted police requests to retain their prisoner while they continue to review his hard drives and sift through all his electronic media. The court will allow police to retain him through November 18, and, should they press charges, the accused faces a prison term of up to 3 years. 

The court’s rationale makes sense amid a worrisome trend in undocumented aerial survey along points of national security interest. Earlier this month Norway’s PM had warned that sightings of drones near major energy and military infrastructure were on the rise. One sighting near Kårstø put locals on edge after Home Guard soldiers on duty reported drone overflights over their expansive gas processing facilities. The NRK reported that home guard forces believed they had even made eye contact with the operator. “Defense forces reported an observation of the drone and a possible drone pilot, but they lost the observation after a relatively short time,” Fenne-Jensen said. Whoever the operator was, they remain a mystery, one of a series of incidents along a similar vein.

The arrests can serve as a reminder to those hobbyists operating their drones in the vicinity of politically spicy locales, an ever present threat when flying near groups or governments concerned about aerial snooping. 



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