Drones have seen a massive rise in recent years around the world, thanks to the availability of advanced and lightweight technology which makes it possible for almost anyone to fly their own personal aircraft.
In this fast-moving sector, the regulations and controls surrounding drones have been slow to update, with a major Europe-wide rule-set still in the works. Right now it’s relatively easy to get your hands on a drone in Ireland but one big question remains:
WHERE CAN I FLY MY DRONE?!
The answer comes down to a couple of distinctions but the main one is what you plan on doing with the drone. If your purpose is mainly recreation there’s one set of rules but if you’re planning on using it for any kind of commercial purpose, things get a bit more complicated.
So let’s assume you’ve picked up a new drone like the Parrot A.R. 2.0 Elite Edition. You’ve assembled it and you’re raring to go – are there are restrictions on where you can take it for a spin and what you can do with it?
By the rules of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) this kind of craft comes under the (Rockets and Small Aircraft) Order, 2000. And a few important rules apply, mainly when it comes to safety around other flying vehicles.
For example, you must ensure that nothing dangerous can fall from the drone while in flight. You can also not fly within 5 kilometres of an aerodrome boundary or near any kind of controlled airspace. And you must not fly higher than 400 feet.
The basic brief is that you shouldn’t present any danger to either people on the ground or aircraft, so these rules come down to common sense. In certain cases, like if the drone weighs over 20 kilograms, you also need to get written permission to fly from the IAA.
There are other guidelines for safe and considerate drone flying, including the strong recommendation that you take out some form of insurance, but that isn’t part of the rules.
Now if you’ve become adept in the ways of the drone and think you might like to shoot some fancy HD footage from a glorious height with the aim of selling it on for profit, that’s where things get a lot more complicated.
REMOTELY PILOTED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS
Drones used for commercial purposes come under the definition of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems. This means that you not only have to obtain a license from the IAA but also written permission from them 90 days ahead of your proposed flight.
In addition, you must give evidence of completing an IAA approved training course, with four currently operating in Ireland. That is unless you are already a licensed pilot and aware of the mechanics and systems of piloting.
After you’ve obtained the correct permits, training and permission there remain some restrictions on where you can fly an RPAS. For the most part it must be over unpopulated areas or in a specially designated zone. Urban use is prohibited as it its operation near large groups of people.
While no users in Ireland have been prosecuted for illegal drone use yet, the introduction of similar Europe-wide laws could change that in the near future. For now, it’s best to ensure that you use the stunning footage captured during your flights for your own enjoyment and perhaps don’t monetise them on YouTube.
There’s a lot of information and misinformation floating around about drone use in Ireland and with the technology emerging so fast it’s going to take a little while for the dust to settle. The basic message is this – it’s fine to use your personal drone for your own recreational uses in many areas where it doesn’t pose a safety risk to other people or pilots.
Put more simply – use your own common sense while flying and respect other people’s privacy and personal space. And go out and have fun with drones!