Estonia considering new rules as drones become more widespread

Drone (photo is illustrative).
Drone (photo is illustrative). Source: Rene Suurkaev / ERR

Experts are discussing best practices for the use, regulation and monitoring of drones in Estonia as they become more widespread.

Both Russia and Ukraine have carried out attacks using drones since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion last year and many of the models used can be purchased by ordinary people, Tuesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

But, at the same time, the threat should not be overstated, experts believe.

In February, the Ministry of Interior founded a working group to follow the latest drone developments.

But much of the group's work will not be made public, said Andrus Padar, an expert from the remote monitoring research and development center of the Internal Defense Academy.

"We will set out the principles of how we will distinguish between what is legal and good and behaving legitimately, and what mechanism will help to identify whether a particular suspect drone poses a threat. The rules we hope to establish would help us to choose a sensible measure to use against it," he said.

Ministry of the Interior coat of arms. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Drones can be used by states, groups, or individuals to carry out attacks but it is still only a tool.

"The drone is a new method of delivery, but Estonia has relatively good measures in place to restrict the handling of explosives. If you still can't make such an offensive drone because not all the components are available, then that means that the threat is not that high," he explained.

Even without carrying explosives, drones can harm humans and cars if there is a full-speed crash.

But drones can also have other uses.

Taavi Siru, head of the sentence execution service of the Ministry of Justice's prison department, said several countries have seen a rise in attempts to deliver packages over prison walls with drones.

Special devices can be used to intercept the airborne vehicles and limit their movement, Siru said. Jammers may not work in all cases and training eagles to catch drones has been tested in the Netherlands. But not every attempt has been successful.

"For example, colleagues in Germany have used special guns that shoot out a net and get stuck in the wings of the drone. However, when the drone is high up, this can be somewhat tricky," said Siru.

Jaak Tarien. Source: ERR

When it comes to larger drones, jammers, eagles, and net guns may not be helpful, and something more heavy-duty would be needed, said Jaak Tarien, former commander of the Estonian Air Force.

"If there's no warning and that drone is in the air between houses, there's nothing you can do. It has to be prevented. [But] To live in a state of permanent combat readiness, with shooters everywhere - that's just not possible these days," he said.

Tarien emphasized that the security services still need to fulfill their role by catching people with the intention to cause harm before they can succeed.

He added that the possibility to carry out drone attacks has existed for a long time, but has not happened so far.

"I remember when I was nine or 10 years old, about 40 years ago, I bought a small piston engine with a propeller, which was intended to make a remote-controlled model airplane. The situation hasn't changed, so now all of a sudden we have radio-controlled flying machines," said Tarien.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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