Can I fly a drone in the city?
In Spain, until the entry into force of the European regulation, drones could only be flown in the city if the operation was recreational, with the limitation of flying up to 20 metres in height. If the operation was professional, it was only possible to fly over agglomerations of buildings or inhabited places with an Operational Authorisation issued by AESA for city flights. This was indicated in Royal Decree 1036/2017, which regulated the drone sector in Spain until the end of 2020.
However, with the entry into force of the European UAS Regulations in 2021, flight in urban environments was liberalised, and the current regulations allow drones to be flown in the city, both in the open and specific categories.
Although it is important to note that even though you can use a drone in the city, there are some limitations that you must take into account to avoid breaching the current drone regulations in Spain.
WHAT SHOULD I TAKE INTO ACCOUNT TO FLY MY DRONE IN A CITY?
First, you should know the regulations that allow you to fly drones in Spain and Europe, and for this we recommend that you consult the AESA website where you can check everything you need to have before flying your drone, such as registration as an operator, training through a drone pilot course and civil liability insurance for drones.
Just because the regulations allow flying in cities does not mean that flying in these types of locations is exactly the same outside an urban environment, as in the case of SPA areas, where there may be special limitations and a drone licence or a drone pilot’s licence may be required.
Important aspects to consider before starting to fly with drones
It is important to prepare the operation with your drone and check the area on different maps (ENAIRE Drones, Google Maps, Google Earth). This can help you understand the geography of the terrain and the obstacles you may encounter on the day of your flight. In addition, you should check that you comply with all permits to fly drones in the specific city, as there may be limitations due to proximity to airports or areas with regulations.
In addition, your aircraft must also be qualified for city flying. For example, it is mandatory to equip your drone with an impact energy limitation system. It is important to know that a parachute or similar system is mandatory to carry when, according to the regulation: “the impact energy of your aircraft exceeds 80J”. This measure, the Joules of Energy, implies a scale of possible damage that your drone could cause when it falls on someone. In other words, not all aircraft have the same impact energy. And it is not an easy figure to calculate. It is a figure that can be provided by the manufacturer, or that you can find in the list of aircraft that AESA has in the application where you must register as a drone operator when you register your aircraft. It is not because your aircraft weighs more that it will have more impact energy. It may have a much larger wingspan and this may reduce this energy.
Apart from the regulatory obligations and the preparation of the flight in map tools, it is very important to be aware that flying in urban areas requires certain permits and requirements.
Drone legislation in Spain
With the entry into force of Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, the use of identification plates for drones is mandatory in almost any scenario. On the other hand, if the activity is recreational, you can fly up to 20m with a drone of less than 250gr. But this does not exempt you from applying for other necessary permits, such as coordination with heliports, for example.
In addition, if you occupy public roads or fly over urban areas, you should check with the local council about any limitations.
On the other hand, depending on the Operational Category in which you are going to fly your drone, you will have to maintain a series of distances and rules:
- Open A1: This category allows drones up to 500g to be flown during transition (before mandatory European Class labelling). Flying drones of this size will require you to avoid overflying by outsiders as much as possible and under no circumstances will you be allowed to fly over crowds of people.
- Open A2: This category allows drones up to 2kg to be flown during transition (before mandatory European Class labelling). Flying drones of this size will require you to keep 50m horizontally clear of outsiders.
- STS-ES-01: applying the standard scenario developed for flying drones weighing up to 10kg in an urban environment, these aircraft will be allowed to fly but you must comply with all the requirements specified in the Scenario.
It is important to take into account the application for the necessary permits depending on the area of operation. In building agglomerations, you should always apply for a Communication to the Ministry of the Interior, among others.
Even so, you should train well for a flight in a city. The air currents, the curiosity you may generate among people nearby and the complexity of a city (vehicles, little space, buildings, interference with GPS and other signals) can make things difficult for you.
Fly carefully, always check the regulations with the Authorities (AESA, police…), and keep up to date with our news so that you know the different types of drones and all the information related to UAS in Spain.
Can a drone be flown at night in the city?
As with drone flights during the day, it is permitted to fly drones at night, as long as they comply with the conditions required for this type of operation.
To fly drones at night it is necessary for the pilot to be an expert and to have undergone intensive training in night operations. This is because this type of activity is more complex. In addition, the drone must be equipped with regulatory lights that allow its location to be easily detected.
In the case of light shows with drones for events, it will be necessary to obtain some additional permits according to the regulations of each locality.
Can a drone be flown in a village?
Yes, it is generally possible to fly a drone in a town as long as certain regulations and considerations are respected. Although regulations may vary from place to place, it is important to follow the general guidelines set out to fly drones safely and legally.
So, as with flying a drone in a city, you should check that the area has no restrictions and that you meet all the requirements to be a drone pilot. It is also important that you document yourself about drone regulations at airports, in case your town is less than 8 kilometres away from an airport.