Thousands of drones to fly under Christmas tree this year as new rules kick in

17 Dec 2015

Under the new rules, drones of 1kg or more and less than 25kg, must be registered in Ireland

From Monday 21 December 2015 all drones and uncrewed flying vehicles in Ireland weighing over 1kg will have to be registered. Registration fees will be waived until February, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has said.

The use of drones is spreading rapidly in Ireland, with an estimated 4,000 drone pilots active in the country.

To register a drone, the registrant must be 16 years of age or older. Drones operated by those under 16 years of age must be registered by a parent or legal guardian.

The IAA said that a nominal fee will apply from February 2016 but this has been initially waived by the IAA in order to encourage early registration.

‘Tremendous potential exists for this sector and Ireland is at the forefront of its development’

The new legislation prohibits users from flying their drones in a dangerous way, including if it is a danger to another aircraft in flight, if it is being used over people’s heads or if it is further than 300m from its operator.

Other restrictions include ensuring flight must take place 5km away from an aerodrome and the drone must not fly more than 400 feet above ground level.

The introduction of the rules occurs around the same time as similar rules are made law in the US, where drones must also be registered.

The new rules are all about safety first

“Ireland is already recognised worldwide as a centre of excellence for civil aviation and the drone sector presents another major opportunity for Ireland,” said Ralph James, the IAA’s director of safety regulation.

“We’re closely working with industry to facilitate its successful development here. At the same time, safety is our top priority and we must ensure that drones are used in a safe way and that they do not interfere with all other forms of aviation.”

James explained that drone registration has been made a mandatory requirement as this will help the IAA to monitor the sector in the years ahead. The IAA encourages all drone operators to take part in training courses, which are available through a number of approved drone training organisations.

“We would strongly encourage drone operators to register with us as quickly as possible, to complete a training course and to become aware of their responsibilities. People operating drones must do so in a safe and responsible manner and in full compliance with the new regulations”, he said.

Under the new rules, drones of 1kg or more and less than 25kg, without fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft and including cargo at the start of its flight, must be registered.

Uncrewed aircraft weighing 25kg or more must be registered in the same manner as crewed aircraft.

The new rules are fundamentally about safety, said Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe TD, who expects a large number of drones to be arriving as Christmas presents this year.

“The core safety message promoted today advocates the safe use of drones in civilian airspace,” Donohoe said.

“The development of drone technology brings opportunities as well as challenges for businesses and services in Ireland. I expect hundreds, if not thousands, of drones to be bought as presents this Christmas, so getting the message to ensure that  new owners and operators are aware of their responsibilities and the requirement to register all drones over 1kg from  21 December 2015 is key.

“Tremendous potential exists for this sector and Ireland is at the forefront of its development. The speedy response by the IAA to this fast developing aviation area will make sure that drones are properly regulated and registered for use. As a result, Ireland is well placed to exploit the drone sector and to ensure industry growth in this area,” he said.

Drone image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years