Flanders calls for more flexibility as drones get green light

Summary

Belgium’s Privacy Commission has given the go-ahead to a proposal to allow the commercial use of drones, with Flanders’ mobility minister in favour of fewer restrictions on their use

Broader limits

The Privacy Commission has given a positive advice to a proposal by federal mobility minister Jacqueline Galant to create a legal framework for the commercial use of drones. Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts described the rules as “too strict” and proposed broader limits.

The government has introduced rules to govern the growing use of drones, especially for commercial purposes, including photography, remote sensing and cartography. Despite the fact that up to 2,000 drones are sold every month in Belgium, the laws dated back to 1954 and were intended to cover model aeroplanes.

Under the new rules, drones may only be flown by members of the public on the owner’s own property, at a height no greater than 30m. Professional users can only fly outside the vicinity of an airfield, and no higher than 91m, but require a licence gained after medical examination and theory and practical tests. The airspace over 150m is reserved for manned aircraft.

However, some professional users argue that while 91m is sufficient for most purposes, for others, such as agricultural surveying, a maximum of 150m is required.

Weyts supports the 150m limit and argues that the licensing should be made more flexible to encourage young entrepreneurs to experiment with new ways of using drones. As Flemish minister, however, he has no binding say on the Galant proposals, which will go before parliament in the new session starting next month.

The Privacy Commission had reservations over the use of drones for photography or filming, and the potential threat to privacy. However, it accepted that these concerns had been addressed in the legislation, in particular by making legal aspects a central part of the training for users.

Elsewhere, the Brussels Capital Region has issued a negative advice on Galant’s proposal, according to the office of mobility minister Pascal Smet. Brussels is in favour of good regulations for drones, but is demanding more guarantees over safety, noise nuisance and privacy.

Photo courtesy Don McCullough/Flickr Commons