TALLINN – As of Thursday, unmanned aircraft operators in Estonia will no longer be obliged to coordinate their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations with the Transport Administration, but they have to comply with restrictions in areas designated on a new map application available via the website of Estonian Air Navigation Services (Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS).
"The coordination obligation will disappear, because when establishing new areas, various risks are thoroughly analyzed, and as a result, rules are laid down for the areas so that flying takes place safely," said Mait Roomus, chief inspector for unmanned aircraft at the Transport Administration's flight operations unit.
At present, a request for approval must be sent to the Transport Administration at least three working days before the scheduled flight, which is very troublesome for drone pilots.
However, drone flying will not be completely deregulated. Pilots are still obliged to follow the additional information and flying conditions valid in the permanent geographical areas established in the Estonian airspace, using the newly created Estonian Drone Map.
"In some locations, for example, drone fliers have the obligation to obtain permission from the air traffic control unit or to inform the airport's flight information service unit about their activities before the flight," said Madis Prink, project manager at the business development department of Estonian Air Navigation Services.
A prerequisite for drone flying is that the operator is registered as an UAV operator in the Flight Safety Supervision Information System (LOIS) and complies with the rules for open category operations and the restrictions displayed in the map application. These restrictions may, for example, relate to the horizontal or vertical boundaries of the area or the obligation to notify the responsible air traffic services unit.
According to Prink, the geographical areas displayed in the map application make the work of both drone pilots and air traffic control much easier.
"Most flights no longer require pre-flight coordination, and only unmanned aerial flights in a special category need approval from the Transport Administration. However, in certain circumstances, permission must be sought from the responsible air traffic control unit before starting operations, and this information will be seen by users in the map application," he said.
It will still be necessary to apply for a permit to fly drones in areas established by the government order of autumn 2022 for security, safety and environmental protection purposes. Flight restrictions apply in nature reserves, areas designated by the Police and Border Guard Board, for example near national borders, and in areas established for safety and security purposes above various sites in the area of administration of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Justice.
The drone map app is available at https://aims.eans.ee/droonikaart.
In addition to the boundaries of the areas, the application shows the contact details of the authority granting the permission to fly in individual areas. The new map application is informative and only displays permanent geographic areas. To check for temporary flight restrictions, operators and pilots still have the legal obligation to check the NOTAM (Notice to Airman) information at aim.eans.ee before commencing operations.
The new map application replaces the drone app currently popular among drone pilots in Estonia.