New legislation on drones is ready for review

Summary

Following on a draft proposal, a refined version of the new law on the use of drones in Belgium is now with the regions and Council of State for review

Two classes of users

Federal mobility minister Jacqueline Galant has completed preparations for new legislation governing the use of drones. The new law follows news last year that the technological sector was still being governed by a law on model aircraft dating from 1954.

The original draft of Galant’s proposal divided the drone sector into two fields: recreational and professional. After consultation with the European Commission, a new version was drafted that divides the professional sector further into Class One and Class Two.

Class One concerns drones weighing up to 150 kilograms, with a ceiling of 90 metres, either high-risk – flying over a crowd, for example – or low risk. Pilots need to be over 18 and have a flying licence, and drones must be registered.

Class Two drones weigh less than five kilos and have a ceiling of 45 metres. Pilots have to be 16 and have a flying certificate. These drones must also be registered.

Recreational users – an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 drones are being sold every month in Belgium, according to Limburg importer Skyeye – do not need a flying licence or registration. Their maximum flying height is set at 30 metres.

Two technical requirements from the original draft – the presence of a GPS tracking system and signalling lights – have been dropped from the new version. The latter measure was a guard against surreptitious use of drones, such as to film people in private situations. However, Galant stressed that privacy laws are sufficient to cover that area. “What goes on the ground, goes in the air,” she said.

The draft legislation will now be considered by the regions and the Council of State. Galant hopes to have the law in place before the summer.