Implementing European drone rules
The introduction of EU Regulation 2019/947 - how a variety of tools have helped the smooth implementation of the new drone rules in Luxembourg
The Directorate of Civil Aviation (DAC) is the competent authority of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in matters relating to aviation safety and security. As such, its missions include among others ensuring the safety and security of all civil aviation activities in Luxembourg, processing applications, providing training certificates and ensuring the conservation or improvement of the level of safety and security.
The UAS & New Technologies Department of the DAC (hereinafter referred to as “the Department”) is responsible for the safe implementation of the new European Drone Regulation 2019/947 and works in close collaboration with the market operators and supporting partners in various domains such as vineyards spraying, R&D, topography or construction industry. As such, the DAC is responsible for the application and supervision of this new Regulation and actively promotes the development of Drone activities within the territory of the Grand Duchy.
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Given the scope of the Regulation, the Department has come up with a variety of tools in order to be fully compliant with the European requirements:
Tool #1: The UAS Operator Registry
This tool, developed with the support of the Luxembourg Government IT Centre (CTIE), serves to identify the operator and allows each physical person or legal entity with Luxembourg residency to self-register and get an individual Operator ID number. Once registered, the operator has to visibly display his unique UAS operator number by pasting the identification strip on each UAS that he/she operates. Moreover, the registration certificate received upon completion of this online procedure contains an identification string, which must be entered into the UAS system, if that system supports remote identification. As of today, the UAS Operator Registry contains over 1600 physical and legal entities. In a near future, this Registry will be connected to a European broker solution, enabling all EASA Member States to exchange information on UAS Operators in full accordance with Data Protection requirements in force. At a national level, DAC closely cooperates with law enforcement authorities.
UAS registration certificate of the Luxembourg Directorate of Civil Aviation
Tool #2: The Online Training Program for Remote Pilots
An Online Training Program for Remote Pilots has been elaborated in close cooperation with Eurocontrol Aviation Learning Centre (ALC) based in Luxembourg, providing a European Certificate valid in all EASA Member States for remote pilots. This first of its kind interactive online training course and examination covers an array of practical examples and real life scenarios, and delivers the knowledge required in the areas of air safety, airspace restrictions, aviation regulations, human performance limitations, operational procedures, UAS general knowledge, privacy and data protection, insurance and security.
The training program counts two separate curricula, namely the OPEN A1/A3 certification and the OPEN A2 certification. The OPEN A1/A3 certification, which is completely online, is needed for operations that do not require a specific approval from the DAC. It entitles a pilot to fly light drones close to people and larger drones in open fields far from any infrastructure. This qualification can be topped up with an additional certificate, the OPEN A2 certificate, which can be obtained through an additional examination within DAC’s premises. Indeed, according to the current EU Regulation, remote pilots operating in the Open A2 category are required to complete this supplementary theoretical examination aiming to assess their knowledge of fundamental complementary aspects such as the technical and operational mitigations for ground risk, meteorology and overall UAS performance. The completion of this certificate allows the remote pilot to fly closer to people in urban environments. This tool has known a huge success in Luxembourg and beyond and more than 31.000 remote pilots from all over Europe have so far obtained their OPEN category training certificate.
Tool #3: A dynamic map with Geozones
In addition to the registration and training tools, the DAC has worked closely with the Luxembourg Land Registry and Topography Administration in order to create a dynamic map with the so-called Geozones. Geozones display the geographical areas within the Luxembourg territory where drone flights are either restricted to special conditions or totally forbidden. Such restricted or forbidden areas may include, for instance, Luxembourg airport, heliports, stadiums, the Grand-Duke residences, prisons etc. This online map, available at map.geoportail.lu is divided into 2 height sections, that is, from ground level up to 50m and from 50m to 120m. What makes this tool particularly interesting is the fact that information on these special areas is real time. This means that the website is constantly updated and remote pilots are even able to access activation schedules and operating conditions with regard to each protected area. Statistics show significant traffic flow on the map with an average of 2000 activations per month.
Screenshot of map on map.geoportail.lu
Tool #4: Spreading the word!
Last but not least, the DAC has built a strong relationship with national UAS operators through various communication tactics, such as a general Awareness Campaign and live Forums dedicated to complex operations in the UAS Specific category.
In order to communicate widely on the new EU drone Regulation and its general safety rules, an Awareness Campaign was launched in March 2021. With a focus on the OPEN category, this campaign highlighted the major aspects of the new European rules and invited drone users to visit the DAC’s website for more information. The main tools for diffusing the information were the internet as well as other standard media communication supports such as billboards, leaflets – without forgetting a short animated movie named “Donnie & Paul”, which has been made available to the DAC with the courtesy of EASA.
Campaign posters made by the Luxembourg Directorate of Civil Aviation
As for the public relation with regard to the SPECIFIC category, the DAC decided to organize its first UAS Professional Forum mid-December 2021. In fact, considering that the SPECIFIC category raises numerous additional questions such as on the respective legal background and national specificities requiring a deeper analysis and discussion, the DAC invited all companies and private users to this online event in order to address questions and potential concerns. This has been the perfect opportunity for participants to better understand the legal framework, get an overview over typical activities and assess the lessons learned since the delivery of Operational Authorizations prior to the entry into force of the new European Regulation.
The richness and complexity of the European Drone Regulation 2019/947 has led the DAC to act in an innovative and proactive way. In Luxembourg, no other civil aviation topic has ever been so close to civilians and put so much focus and effort on reaching out to companies, drone users and the general public. With the help of the different tools presented above, the DAC has been able to provide full and high quality support to UAS operators on a multitude of regulatory facets, ranging from legal to operational aspects. Furthermore, the close collaboration with the various institutional partners mentioned here above has demonstrated that, together, complex regulatory requirements can be met and high levels of safety maintained in the airspace and on the ground.
(contribution from Luxembourg)