Do you want to fly a drone (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, RPAS, or unmanned aircraft system, UAS)? For instance for aerial photography or researching hard to reach places? You must comply with the European regulations for drones.
These rules do not apply to radio-controlled model airplanes or helicopters. These are subject to the model airplane regulation (richtlijn modelvliegen, in Dutch).
All drone operators must register, with the exception of drones without a camera and that weigh less than 250 grams and toy drones that have a CE marking for toys. You register with the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW). To do so you apply to RDW for a drone operator registration number. This number must be displayed on (all) your drone(s) and should be visible on the drone.
There are 3 categories of drones:
The category determines which permit or licence you need. Categories are determined by the flight risk of the drone. The risk depends among others on the weight of the drone, your knowledge, and the location of the flight. Each category has specific rules.
The open category is for drone flights with a low risk. This category is divided in 3 sub-categories:
- A1 (up to 500 grams, class identification label 0 and 1 or none): may fly over people but not over assemblies of people;
- A2 (up to 2 kilograms, class identification label 2): must keep at least 50 metres horizontal distance from people;
- A3 (up to 25 kilograms, class identification label 2,3, 4): must fly far from people and at least 150 metres from urban areas.
If you fly a lightweight drone and you do not fly near crowds, in general the following conditions apply:
- you may not fly your drone higher than 120 metres
- you must have your drone in sight at all times
- the drone may not weigh more than 25 kilograms
- you may not use the drone to transport dangerous goods
- you may not use the drone to drop anything
- you must always give way to other aircraft
- you cannot enter no-fly zones (you can find these easily using the Dutch air traffic management’s GoDrone app)
- you must change your flying location when emergency services are active near you
Remote pilots must have completed the required training for flying drones over 250 grams and pass an online theory exam with a recognized Dutch flight school (in Dutch). Upon completion you can apply for a certificate to the RDW. You can apply for a Certificate of Completion (flight certificate for the A1 / A3 sub-category) or a Proficiency Certificate (flight licence for the A2 sub-category). These certificates are valid in other EU countries as well.
If you want to perform a drone flight in this category in another EU country, you do not need permission. You must however make sure to follow local rules. For instance on minimum age of the drone operator, or if there are any zones you are not allowed to fly a drone.
The specific category is for drone flights with more risks. For instance:
- you fly closer to people than in the open category
- you fly near airports or airfields
- you fly drone over 25 kilograms
- you fly your drone near a residential area
- you fly higher than 120 metres
- you drop something off with your drone (for instance crop spraying)
- you do not have your drone in direct view
You are not allowed to enter no-fly zones (you can find these easily using the Dutch air traffic management’s GoDrone app).
If your drone operation falls in this category, you need an operational authorisation (in Dutch), unless the operation is covered by a Standard Scenario (possible from February 2023). You apply for operational authorisation to the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectoraat voor de Leefomgeving en transport, ILT, in Dutch). Alternatively you can apply to ILT for a Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC, in Dutch). Then you can operate more freely and without an operational authorisation. For help with your application you can contact ILT. You can add your licence or authorisation to your registration with RDW.
To fly drones in the specific category you need a Certificate of Completion and a Proficiency Certificate from RDW. You cannot yet apply for these. These certificates will be valid in other EU countries as well.
If you want to perform a drone flight in this category in another EU country, you must apply for permission from the national authorities.
The certified category is for drone flights with the highest risk. For instance flying a large drone (over 3 metres) over crowds or using a drone for transporting people (taxi drone) or dangerous goods. This category is for flights that carry the same risks as manned aircraft.
The rules for this category are not yet fully established. Until then you will have to apply for a licence to the national aviation authority (in Dutch) for drones weighing less than 150 kilograms. The licensing procedures will be comparable with those for manned aircraft.
It is mandatory to have a liability insurance when you fly a drone over 20kg. Make sure insurance has the right coverage in case you cause damage or injury. You can add your insurance with your registration with RDW.
In case of an accident or incident (for instance a near collision) with your drone, you should notify ILT.
Drones regulation aid
The Dutch-language Drones regulation aid can help if you have questions on the rules that apply for flying your drone and what you need to do in specific situations.