In October, Sweden's Supreme Administrative Court (Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen) ruled that drones with a mounted camera should be treated as surveillance cameras, meaning a permit would be required from the local county administrative board to use them.
With Sweden's Data Protection Authority (Datainspektionen) typically only granting permits when the goal of filming is to prevent crime or accidents, the shift was interpreted as a disaster for the growing number of companies and videographers using the new technology to capture images previously unattainable without access to expensive filming gear.
Trade organizations warned that jobs would be lost as a result, and the head of programming at public service broadcaster SVT said it would create problems for the majority of TV producers in the country.
Following the criticism, the Swedish government this week announced that it wants to change the rule that a permit is required for using the devices to film.
“We now want to change the legislation so you no longer need a permit for drone cameras,” Justice Minister Morgan Johansson told news agency TT.
The proposal has been put out for referral before it becomes a government bill. Johansson said he believes the Riksdag will agree with the Swedish government's line, and the rule reversal should come into force by the summer of 2017.
Johan Lindqvist of drone trade association UAS Sweden greeted the developments with cautious optimism.
“We're optimistic. The Swedish government has realized that the old camera surveillance laws were outdated before they were even applied. Some parts are from the early 1970s and a lot of things have happened since then,” he told The Local.
Lindqvist complained that jobs have already been lost because of the requirement for permits however, and questioned whether more pilots could yet be hit before a reversal of the rules kicks in.
“It is positive that the government has put out a referral for a fast change in the surveillance act, but still, a change will not be effective until summer 2017. Who will the law as it is right now apply to? Will professional operators have an exemption until the change?” he pondered.
“We're concerned that this has led to companies closing and pilots being forced to leave their jobs in some cases,” the UAS Sweden spokesperson added.
Other legislation which conditions drone usage in some situations will not be altered, like for example those governing harmful filming or harassment, Justice Minister Johansson noted.