The drone licence for safer airspace – the following applies from 31 December 2020
The nationally regulated and varying guidelines that have applied up to now are being simplified, harmonised, and made more affordable in Austria. Drones are divided into three categories. The relevant category for private users will be called “open” in the future. For these purposes, the operator must have an uninterrupted visual line of sight to the drone without technical aids, the drone may not be flown higher than 120 metres above the ground, and the aircraft may not weigh more than 25 kilograms. Drones weighing less than 250 grams that do not have a camera do not have to be registered.
In addition to the “open” category, there are the “specific” and “certified” categories for the operation of larger drones. The “specific” category permits flights beyond the visual line of sight, flights with drones weighing more than 25 kilograms, and flights with drones weighing over four kilograms in populated areas. Applications for this category include camera flights over cities or flying over infrastructure. In the future, the “certified” category will also cover drone flights with passengers on board. Air taxis fall into this category. The exact regulations for this category are still being drafted at the European level at the moment, but the provisions are expected to be oriented towards those that apply to manned flight.
“Drones likely found their way under more than a few Christmas trees once again this year. In order to make sure that people handle their new devices responsibly and ensure safe airspace, we are prioritising education and transparency with the new regulations,” explained State Secretary of Aviation Magnus Brunner, adding, “This will make it easier and more affordable to fly a drone – the necessary steps can be completed quickly online and are much less expensive than the fees that were charged up to now. Once you’ve obtained a drone licence and registered your drone, you can fly it anywhere in the EU.”
“The online registration for drone operators and the drone licence for drone pilots will make it easier and more affordable to fly drones in Austrian airspace in the future. At the same time, the drone licence ensures that drone pilots have the necessary specialist knowledge to operate their unmanned aerial vehicle. In the future, the registration and drone licence will be available immediately after successfully completing the requirements. In this way, we are making the path to flying drones unbureaucratic and quick via the platform dronespace.at, while also ensuring the necessary level of safety,” reported Valerie Hackl, managing director of Austro Control.
Registration and drone licence starting on 31 December 2020
For drone operators, the path to safe flight starts from 31 December 2020 by registering at dronespace.at. Only a one-time registration is required, and the costs amount to EUR 31.20 (including VAT). All aircraft must be marked with the assigned vehicle registration number. The registration must be renewed after three years. In addition, the drones must be insured.
The second step requires drone pilots to complete a drone licence in the future, which they must carry with them when flying a drone. The training for this can be completed at dronespace.at. The knowledge required includes content from the fields of aviation law, operating procedures, and general knowledge about drones. The test is intended to promote safety awareness. It covers questions such as where can I fly, how high can I fly my drone, where is it strictly prohibited to fly, and how much distance must be maintained from people who are not part of the flight crew? Prospective pilots must prove their competence in the form of an online multiple choice test consisting of 40 questions, which will also be possible starting tomorrow. After the test is passed, the drone licence can be printed out immediately or carried in PDF format; it is valid for five years. The online prep course and the online test are free.
Model flying: The operation of model aircraft (including at model airfields) is also subject to the European regulations starting on 31 December 2020. This means that operators of model aircraft must also register.