Getting a drone for Christmas? Here’s what you need to know

23 Dec 2020

Image: © Ruslan Ivantsov/

From 31 December 2020, new standardised EU regulations for drones will come into effect, replacing each member state’s existing rules.

Whether you’re giving someone the gift of a drone for Christmas or hoping for one yourself, it’s time to brush up on the regulations to which you will need to adhere.

While drone regulations have so far been set by each member state within the EU and have therefore differed from one another, this is set to change in the new year.

From 31 December 2020, new regulations from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) come into effect, with a two-year transition period, for the safe operation of drones in European skies.

While the original date for the introduction of these regulations was set for June 2020, it was postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Under the regulations, most drone owners will be required to register themselves with their national aviation authority, for example the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) in Ireland. Exceptions to this rule are if your drone weighs less than 250g and has no camera or sensor that is able to detect personal data.

The regulations adopt a risk-based approach and so do not distinguish between leisure or commercial activities. They take into account the weight and specifications of the drone and the operation it is intended to undertake.

Peter Kearney, chief executive of the IAA, said it’s important that drone owners operate the devices safely. “The new drone regulations have been developed to ensure a consistent approach across Europe to the registration and regulation of drones,” he said.

“We have a user-friendly online registration process to make it easy for owners to register and to carry out the necessary training on the use of drones.”

According to the IAA, there are more than 14,000 drones currently registered in Ireland. The owners of these drones will be required to re-register under the new EU system.

An infographic with information about the new EU drone regulations from the IAA.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: IAA

Drone safety tips

The IAA also provided eight tips to keep in mind when operating a drone:

  • Fly your drone no higher than 120m
  • Do not fly your drone over an assembly of people
  • Do not fly your drone within 5km of an airport or military-controlled airspace
  • Do not fly within 120m of a person, vehicle, vessel or structure not under your direct control
  • Do not operate your drone outside of your direct line of sight
  • Do not fly your drone in a restricted area such as a prison or military installation
  • Always seek permission from the landowner for take-off and landing
  • Make sure you register as an operator in adherence with the new regulations

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic