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Regulation of Drones in the Draft Air Code

05 April 2017
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Andrei Bivol, “Hanganu, Tanase and Partners” Law Office

Recently, the Parliament has registered a legislative initiative on adoption of an Air Code. The draft of the future regulatory act, for the first time in Moldova, regulates the use of drones.

Legal definition

The term used in the draft law to define drones is “unmanned aerial vehicle” (hereinafter “UAV”). A similar term, “unmanned aircraft” (UA), is officially used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and, recently, by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Registration 

Article 19 of the draft law requires civil aircraft owned and operated by individuals and legal entities in Moldova to the registered in the Aviation Register.

In case of UAVs, in accordance with Art. 19 (6), the person performing remote control of the aircraft shall always carry the registration certificate.

It should be noted that under Art. 19 (10), in case of a request to register a new type of aircraft into the Aviation Register, the costs related to training the personnel of the administrative authority responsible for implementation of civil aviation policies shall be covered by the applicant. Upon subsequent registration of the same type of aircraft in the Aviation Register, subsequent applicants shall jointly reimburse the costs for the training of the personnel of the administrative authority responsible for implementation of civil aviation policies.

Given that no UAVs have been registered in Moldova so far, the first applicants, in addition to the registration fee, will have to cover costs related to training the personnel of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for the registration of UAVs.

Airworthiness

The draft law imposes a number of conditions for ensuring the airworthiness of an aircraft. One of the conditions is to have a certificate of airworthiness issued by the CAA. However, Art. 20 (1) releases UAVs from the obligation to have a certificate of airworthiness, but obliges them to comply with airworthiness requirements established in the Aviation Regulations.

Aircraft personnel

The draft law does not stipulate any special conditions (training, testing, medical examination, etc.) for UAVs aviation personnel. However, Art. 22 (3) confers on the CAA the duty to approve requirements for such persons. Therefore, we can expect adoption of rules for UAV pilots in the future.

Operation of UAVs

The draft Code stipulates in Art. 26 (3) several categories of air operations. UAV flights with journalistic purposes, in our opinion, may be qualified as non-commercial operations. Given the categories of non-commercial operations stipulated by the draft code, UAV operations for journalistic purposes may be included into the following categories: a) flights for personal purposes; b) private flights.

Authorization for non-commercial operations

Individuals and legal entities intending to perform non-commercial operations on the territory of Moldova shall submit a preliminary declaration to the CAA. It is not clear whether it will be necessary to file a declaration for each flight or for a certain period of time. It is also unclear whether the declaration will be sufficient or a prior authorization will be still required.

Flights in special zones

Art. 33 (“Other flights”), regulating operations that do not fall into any of the above-mentioned operation categories, deserves special attention. It provides that

“(1) Flights of aircraft under Appendix No. 2 to this Code may be performed without a prior permission of the administrative authority implementing civil aviation policies only in specially reserved zones”.

Appendix No. 2 to the draft Air Code contains a list of aircraft types regulated by other conditions than the aircraft used in air transport. Item 9 of Appendix No. 2 includes “aircraft without a pilot on board, with the operating weight of up to 150 kg”.

The text of Art. 33 leads to two conclusions:

  1. UAVs weighing not more than 150 kg may be used without prior authorization or declaration (only the registration requirement remains in force);
  2. The flights of such UAVs are permitted only in special zones.

UAV Regulation at European level

Currently, there is a draft European Commission Regulation on UAVs. The document specifies in detail such aspects as design, certification, airworthiness requirements, personnel requirements, UAV categories and operations. It leaves a very wide margin of appreciation to national aviation authorities in terms of establishing detailed conditions and zones for the operation of UAVs. The Regulation is planned to be approved and published in 2017, and to come into force in 2020.

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The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values  and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.