Did you know the police and army deploy military drone technology in the Netherlands? Did you know the Dutch Police is assisted by the military to conduct investigations with military equipment? Neither did I, but in 2013 I was very interested in understanding the use of drones. Back then it was early days for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their use and availability was relatively obscure information. However, using publicly available data from The Staatscourant via officielebekendmakingen.nl1, I looked for NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) airspace closures that mentioned the Raven UAV system. Most of these NOTAMS pertained to military exercise grounds, but not all of them.
These NOTAMs contain screenshots of maps that show the closed airspace. These have their their own distinct military aesthetic. Seeing a military map with a “targeted” area of an exercise ground is one thing.
The use of drones over Dutch cities would often be for assisting the police. For instance, in the case above. In this PDF from the Staatscourant it is described when and why.
To get some insight in to the frequency, extent and distribution of these flights, I would overlay these on a map of the Netherlands using Google Earth, to understand when and where these closures would happen.
At the time, I contacted several newspapers with this to see if one would be interested in developing it further with me, but none of which showed interest. However, looking back, it strikes me as an early form of OSINT. That is a form of investigation using digital tools, and public sources (whether official, from social media, or otherwise) that was popularised by Bellingcat. This organization, founded in 2014, used OSINT to make a convincing case that it was the Russian-backed separatists that shot down MH17 over Ukraine.
Perhaps this particular instance of OSINT is a mere curiosity, but I share it here as a possible method. For instance, these NOTAMs are announced in advance, and you are entitled to file and objection. I won’t publish the code, so send me a mail if you are interested in it. It is nothing special, difficult or secret, I just can’t be bothered to clean it up and check what does and does not work, so you are free to have it but caveat lector.
The government newspaper where new laws and regulations are officially announced. It has an outstanding search, with the possibility to subscribe to RSS feeds of search results etc. ↩︎