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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.
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) (in Dutch). 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: open, specific and certified. 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 250 grams, class identification label 0 and 1 or none): fly over people but not over assemblies of people;
- A2 (up to 2 kilograms, class identification label 2): fly close to people;
- A3 (up to 25 kilograms, class identification label 2,3, 4): fly far from people.
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 you drone in sight at all times
- the drone may not weigh more than 25 kilograms
- you may not transport dangerous goods
- you may not drop anything
- you must always give way to other aircraft
- you are not allowed to enter no-fly zones (you can find these easily using the Dutch air traffic management’s GoDrone app)
- change you flying location when emergency services are active near you
Remote pilots must have completed the required training for flying drones over 250 grams. To apply for a certificate you need to pass an online theory exam with a flight school. You need a Certificate of Completion (flight certificate for the A1 / A3 sub-category) or a Proficiency Certificate (flight licence for the A2 sub-category). You can apply for a certificate to the RDW (in Dutch). These certificates (in Dutch) 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 (i.e. crop spraying)
- do not have you 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 December 2021). 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. 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. You can apply for a certificate to the RDW (in Dutch). 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 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.
Transition period for licenced remote pilots
A transition period of 1 year applies if you currently have an ROC-light licence to fly drones weighing less than 4Kg (in Dutch).
If you have an RPA-L licence from the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT), you will have to complete a knowledge module. Upon completion you can convert you licence to a Certificate of Completion (flight certificate A1 / A3 subcategory) and possibly a Proficiency Certificate (flight licence A2 subcategory) You must make sure to convert you RPA-L licence before January 1, 2022. Contact ILT for more information.
If you have one of these licences you had to have your drone inspected by a certified organisation (airworthiness inspection). When you apply for a special certificate of airworthiness (S-BVL, in Dutch), you specify where it can be inspected. This certificate is valid for 1 year. This still applies during the transition period. If your S-BVL is expired, you will need to renew it.
It is mandatory to have a liability insurance when you fly a drone. 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 Dutch).
In case of of an accident or incident (for instance a near collision) with your drone, you should notify ILT.