Europe’s Drones Flying Regulation: An Inside Look

Europe’s Drones Flying Regulation

In recent years, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) otherwise commonly known as drones has increased drastically for both commercial and private leisure use.

UAVs unlike the remote-controlled traditional model aircraft that has been in use with hobbyists for many years are fitted with video cameras.

As such operating drones may pose a greater risk to the general public as well as other aircraft as there are no well-established guidelines for their operation.

In fact, new operators of these aerial vehicles operate oblivious of the potential dangers or not being aware of the responsibility they have towards avoiding any accidents.

Drone pilot license Flying drones in Europe require that it is your sole responsibility to be aware of the rules and regulations that govern this activity.

The three main key issues relating to the use of drones in Europe are safety, insurance and privacy and these apply to both commercial operators as well as hobbyists. UAVs can be categorized into two groups, those with an operating mass of less than 20kg and those with operating mass more than 20kg.

Although you are required to adhere to the rules governing drones in both categories, the rules for a small unmanned aircraft (less than 20kg) are less stringent.

Small unmanned aircraft (less than 20kg)

In UK permission is required from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate small unmanned aircraft for either commercial purposes or as a recreational activity outside the operating limits set out and this may include flying over congested areas. Some of the current regulations guiding this category of unmanned aircraft are as follows:

 – The operation must not endanger anybody or anything

 – The drone must be kept within the visual line of sight of its remote pilot otherwise operations beyond this limit should be approved by CAA

 – All flights conducted for aerial work must be approved by CAA

 – The drone pilot must be well-trained to ensure safe operation of the drone.

 Large unmanned aircraft (more than 20kg)

This class of unmanned aircraft is required to be registered with the CAA or otherwise operating under an exemption and must also qualify for a certificate of airworthiness.

However, if the aircraft is to be operated within a visual line of sight of its remote pilot, then CAA can let it operate under an exemption. Provided it is airworthy.

Safety regulations

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is mandated to regulate the use of UAVs in Europe and in particular the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

This regulation applies when the aerial vehicles are used for civil applications and has an operating mass of more than 150kg. Any other RPAS such as those used by hobbyists and operate at masses less than 150kg as well as model aircraft are regulated by individual member states of the European Union.

There is concern that the use of these devices may pose safety risks. As it has been reported in the media, these devices have been reported in highly security areas such as airports posing a security threat to civil aviation.

In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is mandated to control its air space and provide a guide on the relevant rules and regulations. Their enforcement efforts are focused on only allowing those with drone pilot license to operate drones for commercial purposes.

Privacy and data protection

 Usually, drones have video cameras installed to enable the operators to control them. As a result, these video cameras may be used to take videos and to capture images which may end up being uploaded on the internet.

The laws on the use of drones protect the privacy of other individuals, it is important to be wary when using UAV, especially when recording images without the concerned party’s consent.

This may be construed as a breach of Data Protection Act which contains the requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of the said images and related data. Therefore, UAV operators should ensure they comply with such requirements or exemptions.


The European Union policy on drones recognizes that despite their efforts to ensure all UAV operates safely, accidents do happen and the affected victims must have an access to an adequate compensation.

It, therefore, requires all remotely piloted aircraft systems to purchase third-party liability insurance. The limits for the minimum amount of the third party liability insurance should be based on the operation mass of the aircraft.

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