Here’s an interesting drone rumor. Could it be that Russia is behind the disappearance of Swedish speed cameras? Is the Russian army so equipment-strapped that they have resolved to steal the cameras along the Swedish backroads so they can use them in their military drones?
You might think this seems unlikely, but it is one of the theories behind the disappearing, expensive speed cameras along rural roads in Sweden.
The NYT reports that there are 2,300 speed cameras in Sweden. If you happen to drive past one of them at too fast a speed, you will receive a ticket in the mail.
Most speed camera thefts require the use of brute force, such as driving over them with a car, and they usually occur in the early morning hours. Each speed camera replacement and maintenance might cost more than $22,000.
The thefts of the cameras have resurfaced after a short halt in September, with Police probing 160 incidents in all.
The cause for the speed camera thefts is unknown, but one of the most intriguing theories floated in local Swedish media is that the cameras may be used in drones by Russia’s equipment-strapped military in its fight with Ukraine.
At the end of August, 70 speed cameras were taken in Stockholm and Uppsala counties.
Eva Lundberg, national coordinator for the traffic camera system at Trafikverket, the country’s transport agency, said whoever stole the speed cameras destroyed 70 of the units in eight days at the end of August in Stockholm and Uppsala counties.
“Then it stopped for all of September,” Eva Lundberg, national coordinator for the traffic camera system at Trafikverket, the country’s transport agency, said. “They only take the camera. It goes very fast.”
In the middle of October, a second wave of speed camera thefts occurred. The pole-mounted cabinets house a flash, radar, a CPU, and an expensive Nikon camera.
The argument that the thefts are related to the Ukraine conflict is based on the fact that Russia has a hard time getting important military parts because it is facing harsh technological sanctions.
Are Swedish speed cameras ending up in Russian military drones?
According to Lars Wilderang, an author and military blogger, sanctions may force Russia to discover inventive ways to get components for military equipment such as drones.
“The thieves come from somewhere, but the buyers come from somewhere else,” Wilderang said. “You don’t do these kinds of big systematic thefts unless you have someone ordering the products.”
Jonas Eronen, a police spokesperson for Region Mitt, explained that until recently, the worst these safety cameras had seen were random incidents of vandalism, such as spray painting the lens or knocking it over.
“But in the past few weeks,” Eronen continued, “someone has systematically broken into these cabinets and plundered the contents, taking the camera and throwing the rest on the ground near the crime scene.”
The Swedish Police Authority was examining 160 allegations of stolen speed cameras as of Friday, according to Anna Engelbert, the authority’s press officer, in an email to the NYT.
However, the odd thing is that the speed cameras feature customized Nikon cameras with a fixed focus point at 50 feet away, which would not be very practical for drones, one would think.
Ms. Lundberg explained: “It’s not possible to adjust this, according to our supplier. Not easily, at least.”
In the past, the Russian army used low-end Canon cameras in their Orlan-10 military drones.
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