Drones are becoming increasingly more commonplace in Ireland and across the globe. From aerial photography to assisting search and rescue operations, drones can be put to a variety of beneficial uses. However, the use of drones also carries concerns relating to both safety and privacy.
We examine how drones are regulated in Ireland and review the upcoming proposals at EU level. We also consider the privacy issues surrounding the use of drones and the steps that should be followed if a drone is being used for commercial purposes.
The Irish regulations
The Irish rules that govern drones are the Irish Aviation Authority Small Unmanned (Drones) and Rockets Order (SI 563/2015) and the Irish Aviation Authority (Nationality and Registration of Aircraft Order) (SI 107/2015) (the "Regulations").
The Regulations provide that all drones weighing over 1kg must be registered with the Irish Aviation Authority ("IAA"). Also, a drone should not be operated if it will be a hazard to another aircraft in flight or operated in a negligent or reckless manner so as to endanger life or property of others. The Regulations include a variety of other restrictions and prohibitions, including that drones should not be flown:
closer than 5km to an aerodrome, more than 120m above ground level, or further than 300m from the operator of the drone. To fly drones outside these limits, permission of the IAA must be obtained.
Potential measures in the EU
On 1 December, the Council of the EU agreed a draft regulation (the "Draft") which represents proposed EU-wide rules for civil drones. Currently, the EU is responsible for regulating unmanned aircraft above 150kg, with lighter drones being subject to national rules.
The Draft will apply to all varieties of drone, from small toy drones to large unmanned aircraft. The rules seek to set down basic principles to ensure safety, security and privacy. The main rule affecting drones is that national aviation authorities will have to certify certain drones. The certification process will be proportionate and risk-based. The larger the drone, and the higher the risk it poses, the more likely the drone will be required to be certified. Privacy will also be taken into consideration during the certification process.
It's worth highlighting that the legislative process is on-going and that the Draft currently provides the European Aviation Safety Agency with the power to develop more detailed rules on drones.
Privacy and data...