Drones and remotely piloted aircraft (UAS/RPAS) - frequencies and radio licences

Drones and remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and their telecommand equipment contain radio equipment that must comply with requirements. European regulations provide that radio equipment must bear a declaration of conformity and a CE marking. The regulations on wireless devices and their use vary from country to country and it is possible that devices sold in foreign online stores generate interference in Finland, for instance. Devices should not interfere with other radio equipment when their frequencies and radiated power are correct.

Traficom steers and supervises the use of radio spectrum in Finland. By planning the use of spectrum, Traficom aims to ensure that sufficient radio frequencies, that are as interference-free as possible, are available to radio systems.

The transmitters and receivers in remotely piloted, or radio-controlled (rc), drones, copters and other aircraft (UAS/RPAS) as well as in their flight controls are radio equipment. Therefore, they must meet the requirements set for such radio equipment.

Conformity of radio equipment guarantee interference-free radiocommunication

Buying and using radio equipment

Radio frequencies

Command and control links

A drone or remotely piloted aircraft is controlled wirelessly mainly from the ground. The flight control may be a radio transmitter or a more complex control and command station with a video display. The remote pilot, who is on the ground, can control the aircraft using command and control links and receive real-time information about the aircraft systems, such as the rotational speed of motors.

The most commonly used frequencies for controlling drones (from ground to air) are the ones for licence-exempt radio equipment:

  • 2400.000–2483.500 MHz, in which case the transmitter's effective radiated power is either
    • ≤100 mW EIRP, if the applicable standard is EN 300 328 on the digital wideband data transmission equipment (WAS), or
    • ≤10 mW EIRP, if the applicable standard is EN 300 440 on general short range devices (SRD).
  • 5470.000-5725.000 MHz, in which case the transmitter's effective radiated power is ≤ 1 W EIRP and the power spectral density of transmission is ≤ 50 mW/1 MHz EIRP. The applicable standard is EN 301 893 on RLAN equipment.
  • 5725.000–5875.000 MHz, in which case the transmitter's effective radiated power is ≤25 mW EIRP and the applicable standard is EN 300 440 on general SRD.

Other frequency bands suitable for controlling drones and remotely piloted aircraft can be found in the Traficom's Regulation 15.

The frequency band 5030–5091 MHz is, according to the International Telecommunication Union ITU, allocated to the command and control of unmanned aircraft in passenger and cargo traffic and therefore it cannot be used for controlling RPA.

Payload frequencies

Payload refers to other radio equipment than those used for command and control links. The most common payload device is a camera that can send real-time video feed from the aircraft to the ground. A thermographic camera or different measuring equipment may also be included in the payload.

Frequency bands 2400.000–2483.500 MHz, 5470.000–5725.000 MHz and 5725.000–5875.000 MHz may be used for the payload devices of an aircraft in addition to command and control links.

The frequency 1320 MHz is only meant for sending video feed from aircraft to the ground. Using this frequency requires a radio licence that can only be obtained for a fixed period.

Use of mobile network frequencies

In principle, it is not allowed to use mobile network terminals on board an airborne drone, unmanned aircraft or other aircraft unless it is specifically allowed in Traficom's Regulation 15.

Under Traficom’s Regulation 15, authorities and major critical infrastructure providers may use mobile communications necessary for performing their tasks on board aircraft without a licence. This arrangement is fixed-term until 30 September 2020.

With the consent of mobile operators, Traficom may also exceptionally grant a radio licence that enables using mobile devices on board aircraft when flying at low levels. The mobile network frequencies specified in the radio licence may be used for command and control links, payload connections or calls.

Search for new frequencies for command and control links

There are no frequencies reserved for the command and control links of drones and RPA yet that would allow higher levels of radiated power than mentioned above. The process of determining such frequencies has begun in Europe. The aim is to find frequencies harmonised throughout Europe, which device manufacturers and importers could use for their products brought on the markets. This would provide the users of the frequencies a long-term solution enabling them to plan and carry out operations in the long run.

Short-term test licences are possible

Traficom may grant short-term test licences for tests and trials of RPA. Traficom assesses case-by-case whether a radio licence may be granted for the requested frequencies.

Traficom is the civil aviation authority in Finland

Traficom is responsible for ensuring that air transport is safe and as environmentally friendly as possible and for promoting the facilitation and flow of air traffic. Traficom considers aviation issues from the perspective of airline passengers, airlines, private pilots and airport operators.

Traficom's Regulation OPS M1-32 on the use of remotely piloted aircraft and model aircraft entered into force on 9 October 2015.