Finland may let police jam drone signals in sensitive areas

Government plans to grant police and prison officials the right to bring down unmanned aerial vehicles or drones in sensitive areas such as near correctional facilities.

According to Justice Ministry legal counsellor Juho Martikainen, the legal reform would allow law enforcement authorities to use devices to disrupt drones in flight by jamming radio signals to either make the unmanned craft turn to seek a signal or fall to the earth.

Martikainen said that drones have created disruptions at prisons in Riihimäki and Vantaa, both in southern Finland. He noted that some drone explorations are driven by curiosity or voyeurism, but added that drones may also be used for transporting items.

“There have been cases when drugs have been flown into prison compounds,” Martikainen explained.

Meanwhile the Transport and Communications Ministry is considering an all-out ban on drones in some areas, such as in the vicinity of prison facilities.

The government wants to hand police the power to bring down drones in situations where it is unavoidable to maintain public safety, to prevent crime and to protect the privacy of individuals at accident sites.

Police chief inspector Sami Hätönen said that a legislative amendment would give police the possibility of using technology to restrict drones, something that has not been previously written into the law. According to Hätönen, police have had to respond to calls involving drones causing disruptions. However it has not been clear how officers can respond to such situations, he noted.

All the same, he said that signal jamming comes with risks given that it is difficult to predict how a drone will react when its radio signal is blocked.

“It can cause uncontrolled damage. If we use it in police operations we will do so only after careful consideration,” Hätönen added.

The chief inspector said that in future police will continue to primarily tackle the problem of disruptive drones by seeking out their operators and intervening in their activities.

In March, Finland’s Interior Ministry proposed giving police the right to shoot down drones, following reports that drones were used to smuggle drugs into prison and that the unmanned vehicles had also been found to have smuggled cigarettes across the Finnish-Russian border.