Although it is likely that when talk about drones, military use or other military matters come to mind, the use of drones with civil, even leisure, purposes are increasingly common, and more and more applications are being found in different fields.
Currently, the real applications of drones in architecture and construction allow us to collect inaccessible data such as inspection of roofs, inaccessibly high façades inspections etc. They are of great help to make measurements, monitor some work at height or take spectacular photographs and videos from places you could not imagine.
Who, where and when can fly a drone?
If as a gift for your birthday, or because a drone has landed at home and you do not know what to do with it or how it is used, the first thing you should be clear about is that this device is an aircraft. Yes, although it has cost 50 euros and it will be used only to have some fun with it. So before you fly your drone, know the law that regulates your flight, because not everything that you think you can do is allowed by the current Spanish regulations. You can even get a substantial fine so watch out and read carefully this article.
The Spanish State Air Safety Agency (AESA), currently under the Ministry of Development, is responsible for regulating the operation of these unmanned aerial vehicles. And this implies the obligatory fulfilment of a series of security norms, collected by the Royal Decree 1036/2017, in force since December 30, 2017. The regulations are very clear and do not leave room for interpretations. An irresponsible use of the drone can cost lives, so fines can reach the 600,000 Euro for very serious offences; serious offences, could oscillate from 601 to 30,000 Euros, and the minor, from 100 to 600 Euros. So it is worth knowing what can be done and what not before taking a drone out to have some fun.
Spanish rules for recreational or sport use of drones.
The AESA considers recreational or sports use that which is made with a flying device of less than 25 kilos of weight. To use your drone safely on these types of entertainment flights, this agency developed regulations that detail what you can and cannot do:
- Must not lose sight of it. It cannot move more than 500 meters away from the pilot or rise to more than 120 meters. And if you want to fly further, a safety study must be carried out and get an express authorization.
- When the is sunlight. You can only fly during the day, in suitable weather conditions (without fog, rain or wind) and in areas suitable for it. To know in which places it is safe to fly a drone, the company that manages air navigation in Spain has developed a free application (ENAIRE Drones) that, through a map, informs about the spaces in which the flight of these devices are allowed.
- No need for training. No need to be a pilot, but you must fly safely. Underage persons must be accompanied by a someone over 18 years old.
- The importance of insurance. You are always responsible for the damages that your drone can cause. Therefore, it is recommended that you contract a third party insurance.
- Obey the rules. The dissemination of images of people or private spaces need authorization from them. Do not forget to comply with the Law on Data Protection and the Right to Honour, Privacy and own image, and restrictions on aerial image taking, which leave out areas defined by the Ministry of Defence and areas dedicated to activities such as shooting, aerial instruction …
- Special attention. You cannot fly over urban centres or population groups, busy beaches, popular races or festivals.
- Prohibited zones. You cannot fly within eight kilometres of airports and airfields. Nor is it allowed to do so in controlled airspace or where other flights are carried out at low altitude (paragliding, skydiving, balloons, ultralight, gliders, etc.).
- Respect comes first. You cannot endanger or disturb third parties (other aircraft, people and land goods).
Rules for flying the drone professionally.
The requirements are tightened when the drone is used for professional purposes: a theoretical drone pilot certificate issued by an ATO (official pilot school) and an LAPL aeronautical medical certificate (for drones under 25 kilos) or Class 2 are required (for devices of greater weight). In addition, operation and maintenance manuals of the device must be available.
And of course, third party insurance. Drones for professional use must be identified with a fireproof plate showing the name of the aeronautical operator and a contact information. EASA also establishes the need to request and obtain authorization (after a previous safety study) to:
- Fly over agglomerations of buildings and groups of people. The drone must weigh less than 10 kilos and have a system that reduces the effects of the impact (emergency parachutes, for example).
- Fly at night.
- Fly less than what the law marks in the vicinity of airports, airfields…
- Fly in Controlled Airspace and Flight Information Zones.
- Fly beyond the visual range of the pilot (if the drone weighs more than two kilos).
Science fiction are a reality today.
Currently, in Spain there are more than 3,600 companies that work with these unmanned aircraft. And the growth forecasts are unstoppable. All are advantages. They are not very expensive, and you have the ability to introduce sensors of all kinds (photo or video cameras, multispectral, thermal) and you can acquire the data they record, process and treat them. The cost of the drone varies according to its use and size: For 50 euros there are very good drones for recreational use; on a professional level, there are from about 1,000 euros to several hundreds of thousands. The possibilities offered by these devices are almost endless. In fact, they are already used to transport medicines in inaccessible areas of Africa, to deactivate antipersonnel mines, bring a lifeguard to people in danger of drowning in the sea… There are even drone prototypes for the transport of people.
What can I do if a drone records me or my family?
Despite all the laws that drone owners have to abide by, they may not comply with them. If you find one of these devices recording images of yourself – even if it is in a public place or in a private one – your only solution is to report. You can do it to the police or the Data Protection Agency. It is also advisable to notify it as soon as you see it, so that it can be retained. And for the complaint to come to fruition, you have to accompany it with evidence and, if you can, a video of the drone’s flight through the area. One caveat: don’t shoot it down, even if it flies over your garden. In this case it would be you who would be committing a crime, so you could be reported to the police by the owner of the device.