To the skies, responsibly – common rules for safe drone flying

With the coming of spring, more and more drones are also taking to the skies. If you are thinking of flying one, be sure to prepare in advance for the peak flying season: familiarise yourself with the rules, register as a drone operator and complete the theoretical examination. Responsible drone pilots know where they are allowed to fly and respect the privacy of others.

The new EU drone regulation that entered into effect at the start of last year harmonised the rules concerning drones throughout the EU. For drone users, it introduced the obligation of registering in the new national drone operator register. In addition to this, the new regulation introduced some changes to flying practices, though the basic principles of safe flying remained the same. Below are some of the key things that you need to take into account in order to be a safe drone pilot.

Register and take the test

All drone operators, both hobbyists and professionals, must register, familiarise themselves with the drone flying rules and, in most cases, pass the theoretical examination. However, the registration obligation does not apply to operators who fly drones that weigh less than 250 g and are not equipped with a camera or drones that are classified as toys.

Most operators who fly drones as a leisure activity only need to pass the remote pilot’s online examination. So far, the exam has been taken by 15,800 operators.

“The exam requirements will definitely have a positive impact on safety. Following common rules ensures both your own safety and the safety of other,” says Special Adviser Patrik Söderström from the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom.

You can register as a drone operator and take the examination easily via Traficom’s droneinfo.fi website and the Fintraffic.fi website’s drone services. After registering as a drone operator, you will need to attach the drone operator registration number provided to you via email to the airframe of your drone. The registration number must be clearly readable.

As of February, flying a drone weighing 500–2,000 grams within 150 metres of residential, business, industrial and recreational areas has required the completion of a supervised additional theoretical knowledge examination after completing the online theoretical knowledge examination. These so-called A2 theoretical examinations are organised at various locations throughout Finland. So far, the A2 examination has been completed by just over 1,000 people.

Only fly in unrestricted areas

Aviation is restricted in certain prohibited and restricted areas in Finland. These restrictions also apply to drones, which may not be operated in these areas without a special permit. Permanent prohibited and restricted areas have been specified in the Government Decree on areas where aviation is restricted (External link)(in Finnish).

Traficom can also establish restricted or prohibited UAS geographical zones. Such zones have been established at locations such as airports to restrict drone flying and protect air traffic. The details of established UAS geographical zones are published on the droneinfo.fi website.

Drone operators must also observe temporary prohibited and restricted areas that are regularly established in Finnish airspace. These areas may be established to protect large public events or training activities by the Defence Forces. Information on any established temporary prohibited and restricted areas is provided in the Fintraffic air navigation services’ Aeronautical Information Services at ais.fi (External link) as supplements to the Aeronautical Information Publication.

There is also currently a private online map service available for checking potential restrictions along a planned drone flight route. Called Aviamaps (External link), the service offers information on Finnish airspace in almost real time and helps you make decisions on the safe execution of your flight. The service can be used to check specific locations and see if they have any restrictions in place for drone flying.

“Drone flying is a rapidly growing form of aviation that is also giving rise to new business opportunities. This kind of utilisation of new aviation technologies is of course a positive thing. That being said, when flying a drone, it is also important to take into account manned aviation operations,” says Pasi Nikama, senior vice president responsible for customer relations and marketing at Fintraffic Air Navigation Services.

Maintain visual line of sight and respect privacy

The maximum flight height for drones is 120 metres, and the operator must maintain visual line of sight with their drone at all times. Caution must be exercised when flying near airports and crowds. If you want to operate a drone in a restrictive UAS geographical zone near an airport, the instructions for applying for the necessary permit are available on Fintraffic’s website: Flying drones near airports and in controlled airspace (External link).

Other people’s privacy and the sanctity of the home must also be respected. In other words, do not fly a drone in a disruptive manner above people’s homes or use a drone to look into areas protected by the sanctity of the home.

“Violating the rules and relevant laws may also lead to penal measures. As such, please make sure that you are aware of the restrictions applicable to your flying operations,” urges Chief Inspector Tuukka Skottman from the Helsinki Police Department.

More information on safe drone flying is available at droneinfo.fi (External link)!

Enquiries

Traficom: Patrik Söderström, Special Adviser, patrik.soderstrom@traficom.fi, tel. +358 29 534 6120

Fintraffic Air Navigation Services: Pasi Nikama, Senior Vice President, pasi.nikama@fintraffic.fi,
 tel. +358 40 848 2904

Helsinki Police Department: Tuukka Skottman, Chief Inspector, tuukka.skottman@poliisi.fi, tel. +358 29 547 6024