Model aircraft


On July 16 2015 the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) issued a new regulation on remotely piloted aerial vehicles (RPAVs), which supersedes the existing regulation in that regard (for further information please see "Aviation authority issues Regulation on Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles"). The new regulation will come into force on September 14 2015.

The update to the previous regulation was expected given the dramatic increase in the use of RPAVs in the Italian territory over the last two years and the consequent need to ensure improved supervision and more detailed rules for relevant flight operations.

ENAC makes a distinction between remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and model aircraft. RPAS are highly regulated and subject to the applicable provisions of the Navigation Code. Model aircraft are exclusively used for recreational and sporting purposes and are exempt from the code's provisions.


The regulation establishes two types of RPAS that can be used for special operations or research and development activities – those with a maximum take-off weight of less than 25 kilograms (kg) and those with a take-off weight of 25 kg or more.

Further, flights are divided between visual line of sight operations (ie, within vertical and horizontal distances that allow the remote pilot to maintain visual contact with the RPAS without the assistance of visual instruments) and beyond the line of sight operations (ie, beyond distances that do not allow the remote pilot to maintain visual contact with the RPAS). All RPAS must have a flight manual or equivalent and their pilots must be ENAC certified. The regulation also establishes mandatory third-party insurance for any kind of flight operation performed with an RPAS (in compliance with EU Regulation 785/2004 on insurance for air carrier and aircraft operators) and subordinates the handling of personal data collected through RPAS to the Data Protection Code (196/2003).

The regulation also establishes specific provisions based on maximum take-off weights. The following provisions apply to RPAS with a maximum take-off weight of less than 25 kg:

  • The vehicle and relevant ground station must have a licence plate that identifies the system and its operator.
  • If RPAS are used in non-critical flight operations, the responsibility to assess the vehicle's airworthiness, the planned activity and connected risks is borne by the operator, which is required by ENAC to submit a self-declaration of compliance with the applicable sections of the regulation. The critical nature of a flight operation depends on the location involved (ie, whether it is urban, congested or houses important infrastructure).
  • If RPAS are employed in critical flight operations, the operator must obtain specific authorisation from ENAC in advance. The authorisation is granted following a satisfactory exam of the vehicle's airworthiness, the pilot's reliability, the type of operation and the location where the vehicle will be flown. ENAC authorisation is required for research and development activities. Further, flying over gatherings of people (eg, public demonstrations or sport events) is forbidden.
  • Operators must keep detailed records of their flights and file these with ENAC annually.

The regulation also sets out the following provisions for RPAS with a maximum take-off weight of 25 kg or more:

  • The vehicle must have a licence plate that identifies the system, operator and relevant ground station and must be registered in the Register of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, held by ENAC. Each RPAS must therefore have a dedicated registration number.
  • The airworthiness assessment test is carried out directly by ENAC. If the vehicle is manufactured through serial production by a certified manufacturer the authority will issue a certificate of airworthiness. If not, the vehicle can be operated following the issuance of a specific flying permit.
  • ENAC authorisation is always required, irrespective of whether the flight operations are deemed critical or non-critical.
  • The RPAS operator must establish a proper maintenance programme to ensure the vehicle's continuing airworthiness.

Model aircraft

The regulation defines a 'model aircraft' as a "remotely piloted aerial device exclusively used for recreational and sport purposes which is under the continuous visual control of the operator, without the assistance of visual instruments".

Model aircraft are subject to a more lenient regulatory framework, which does not require self-declaration or authorisation to start flight operations and specifies where such operations can be conducted based on the vehicle's technical requirements. RPAS operators do not need to apply to ENAC for temporary reserved airspace if a model aircraft has:

  • a maximum take-off operative mass of less than 25 kg;
  • a maximum wing surface of 500 square decimetres (dm2);
  • a maximum wing loading of 250 grams/dm2;
  • a maximum piston engine size of 250 centimetres3;
  • a maximum electric engine power of 15 kilowatts (kw);
  • a maximum turbine engine thrust of 25 kg; and
  • a maximum turboprop engine power of 15 kw.

Further, operations must be carried out in non-populated spaces in a radius of no more than 200 metres, within a height of 70 metres and far from buildings and infrastructure. The evaluation of compliance with these limits is made by the operator under his or her exclusive responsibility.

If these technical and locational requirements are not met, the model aircraft can be operated only in dedicated areas selected by ENAC within the Italian territory or subject to the prior institution of a temporary reserved airspace.

For further information on this topic please contact Laura Pierallini at Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati by telephone (+39 06 88 41 713) or email ([email protected]). The Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati website can be accessed at