Turkish Police Shoot Down Surveillance Drone During Istanbul Protests

from the it-had-to-happen dept

As the growing number of Techdirt stories on the subject testify, drones are becoming a more familiar part of modern life. But their presence can add a new element to situations. An obvious example is during demonstrations, where drones can be used to monitor those taking part — but also the authorities’ reaction. As with cases where members of the public have used smartphones to capture police abuse, so drones offer the possibility of revealing questionable police activity that might in the past have gone unrecorded.

Given that potential to show the forces of law and order in an unflattering light, it was perhaps inevitable that the police would eventually take action against a drone that was monitoring them — in this case, by shooting it down:

Tuesday afternoon on June 11th 2013, Police was violently attacking peaceful protestors. Police fired guns at one of our [remote control] drone during the protests in Taksim square, Istanbul. Police aimed directly at the camera. Due to the impact on the camera (it did have a housing) the last video was not saved properly on the SD card. The camera and drone were both broken. Managed to keep the SD card.

Here’s a video of the take-down:

The drone’s images before its violent end provide amazingly clear pictures of what is happening on the ground, and you can see why the authorities might not be very happy about that:

But as a Geek.com article on the incident points out, when you can soon buy a tiny $50 drone that streams straight to your smartphone for uploading to video sharing sites, the police may find themselves being monitored by tens or even hundreds of such devices during their actions against demonstrations, which makes shooting them all down problematic. Doubtless the authorities will come up with an answer to that (a squadron of police drones engaging in a dog-fight, perhaps?), but citizen drone users will then find a way around that — perhaps flying small, hard-to-spot drones very high in the sky, and using high-quality cameras with zoom lenses. And so the drones arms race will continue.

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Comments on “Turkish Police Shoot Down Surveillance Drone During Istanbul Protests”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Every officer that took a shot needs to be fired

Gun safety 101: Never take a shot when you don’t know what’s behind your target and/or you don’t know where a miss will send your bullet.

Firing at something in the air, in a crowded city… that’s reckless endangerment of lives I’d expect from a hardened criminal, not the gorram police.

Also, it never ceases to amuse me, that the very groups that have no problem with enacting surveillance of other people/groups, always seem to freak out the most when they find themselves being watched.

Anonymous Coward says:

governments will do what they always do with everything. once they find things can be used against them just as they were using them against others, the items will be banned! it will carry a jail sentence if caught using whatever it is! they never think that it will be inciting the people even more acting like this, they just carry on with the attitude that once in power, they can do whatever they want against whoever they want to stay there!

AB says:

There is a simple solution to the drone problem, and the foundations are already being laid. Simply make it a serious criminal offense for private citizens to take any pictures or video without first obtaining written permission from _all_ persons visible on camera including those who might have been caught accidentally. Such a law would then justify the creation of a special task force to carefully analyze every Youtube video, hunt down the poster, and arrest the criminal who took the pictures. Sure it would be expensive, but it’s worth it for the safety of the nation…

DannyB (profile) says:

Citizen drones

Massive numbers of citizen drones could potentially overwhelm government drones.

But there’s more than numbers. When drones get very small, they can easily hide. Imagine a drone sophisticated enough to set down on a balcony ledge or window ledge or roof top edge and watch the abuse of the police on the street.

Imagine these drones directly uploading to the cloud (or via your cell phone to the cloud).

Imagine mesh networks of drones that can relay traffic to a point some distance away from the action where an open WiFi or other internet connectivity is available. Possibly across borders if the internet is being censored.

Anonymous Coward says:

This entire incident has seemed to have a streisand effect, if the police hadn’t shot down the drone, no one would care that a drone filmed what happened at the protest in the first place. No one would have even noticed.

But since they did, since they applied what is otherwise overwhelming force to a inanimate object, they’ve drawn attention to themselves in how much force they are willing to give in order to hide the things they are doing.

Which has made people ask questions, like “What was that drone filming that made cops suddenly reach for their guns?”, well. Now we know. I would say this drone has done much more in pieces than it would have if it was still flying around today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Also the cops could find a way to coordinate the momentary suppression of their signal jammers during police communication.

But these drones operate at different frequencies than the police. The police have certain frequencies reserved for police work. Scanners could (or at least used to be able to, not sure about new scanners) pick up on those frequencies so that you can listen to/tune into their conversations but personal devices are not allowed to transmit to (at least some of) those frequencies. So when you buy these drones they won’t be operating at the same frequencies as police and if they do the FCC could confiscate them.

So a signal jammer could simply broadcast random signals that interfere with the permitted channels these drones use.

In fact, I notice that certain cell phones around where I live seem to sometimes stop working when a police helicopter is around. Usually the more fancy ones don’t work but the simpler ones do. Not sure if maybe police communication interferes with the cell phones or if there is some intentional effort to prevent them from working.

Anonymous Coward says:

As much as I support the right to record authorities I think that during certain situations (not sure if a protest should be considered one) it might be OK for authorities to restrict where drones are allowed to fly. Instances might be a hostage situation or some other delicate situation.

First of all drones could potentially have something dangerous, like a small explosive, on it and be used to cause harm to someone. Or they might simply get in the way and interfere if flown too low or two may collide and fall and hit someone. It could distract an officer trying to dodge one. Then if drones are found to interfere with police work and there are these things flying around everywhere it maybe difficult to track those responsible for controlling the drones to hold them accountable.

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