On Oktober 1st 2015, the dutch regulator intends to implement new rules for remotely piloted aircrafts up to 4 kilo. A maximum speed is under review. The pilot shall give way to other air traffic. Drones may not fly in controlled airspace. Drones may fly no higher than 50 meter. The maximum distance between drone and pilot may be no more than 100 meters. Drones may not fly closer than 5 kilometers to airports. Pilots shall keep a distance of at least 50 meter between the drone and crowds, buildings, highways, roads, industrial areas, harbours, boats, vehicles, artwork and railways.
When the pilot adheres to these rules, the pilot does not require a certificate, the company that executes the flight does not require to be registered and the drone does not require to be technically certified/tested. The max. height/distance restrictions are enforced to enable the pilot to timely detect other air traffic (such as a trauma helicopters) so that he can land his drone. The criteria herein only apply to air safety, the drone pilot needs to adhere to legislation such as privacy and liability.
50 US$ Toy-drones (e.g. that weigh up to 200 grams) that are operated with short-distances controls and/or that do not have automated location correction/detection reside under exactly the same legislations as 1250 US$ drones that weigh up to 4 kilogram that are controlled via 2.4 or 5.8 GHz long-distance signals and/or that have automated location correction/detection.
Under the new FAA proposal, drones that weigh less than 55 pounds would be able to fly up to 500 feet above the ground at speeds up to 100 mph. Drone operators would have to obtain a special unmanned operating certificate, and follow a handful of restrictions, including keeping the drone within sight, and avoiding hazards like restricted airspace, people, airports and other planes. Rather than following the recent FAA proposal of February 2015, the Dutch regulator intends to create a more stringent legislation which is unique in its limitations, also compared to other countries in Europe.
Most toy drones (5-10% market share) have the capability to fly up to 50 meters high and/or 100 meters distance. Currently 60-70% of the drones in the Netherlands are Phantom-2’s, Walkera or similar. The higher end drones provide the highest consumer satisfaction and the price of the higher end drones is rapidly become into the reach of all consumers.
Since the inspection of taller objects (i.e. up to 120 meters height) will still require the Dutch drone operators to obtain exemptions weeks before each actual flight, the use of drones for such inspections may not grow as fast as in other countries. The Dutch legislator may think it is saver to send somebody up a ladder to inspect objects up to 120 meter height.
There already is a large drone consumer community in the Netherlands, that have been flying their drones up to 300 meter high (and often higher) and up to 1 kiilometers away. They have already invested in expensive FPV sets. The consumers that bought drones such as the inspire-1 under the assumptions that legislation would be loosened rather than tightened will not appreciate the new rules.
The number of drone accidents with damage to persons or properties in the Netherlands is relatively low (less than hundred reported incidents per year). However, all drone accidents are always blown-up in the media albeit that their damage is usually less than the thousands of BBQ’s that annually go wrong and which hardly ever make the news.
With the new legislations (i.e with the 50/100 meter height/distance restrictions) four scenario’s are possible:
1) Dutch consumers will continue to procure and use higher-end drones and frequently will not adhere to the more stringent legislations.
2) The new legislation will be rigorously enforced and the emerging drone (service) market in the Netherland will be killed by law.
3) Dutch consumers will move from higher-end drones to lower-end (rather unsafe) drones and will increasingly comply to the legislations.
4) A mix of scenario 1, 2 and/or 3
If the intend is to ban drones from the Dutch sky, the Dutch legislator shall put an army of drone rule enforcers on the streets/beaches. To decently cover the Netherlands hundreds of extra enforcers would be needed, The business case for the extra resources cannot be positive especially if those resources need to be withdrawn from other -more useful- enforcement duties. It is likely that the new legislation will be put in place and adequate enforcement will not be possible. Consumers that fly higher and further than the new rules will figure that they are in breach already and hence will likely fly further and higher than today. The new legislation stimulates the procurement of cheap drones which will crash more often than the safer drones with a higher range.
If the proposed legislation will be widened so that it becomes similar to the rules of FAA and/or of the neighbouring countries (max 120 height and flight within Visual Line of Sight, i.e. 500 meters), it is far more likely that safer commercial drones will be used/procured and that the Dutch legislator will indeed obtain the desired outcome: A safer and controlled airspace for all that use/enjoy it, with less risk to citizens on the ground and/or their properties.