Use of drones is shifting from predominantly recreational use to being an integral part of commercial processes and business operations.   The European Commission predicts that by 2035 the European drone sector will directly employ more than 100,000 people and have an economic impact exceeding €10 billion per year. 

This growth is largely due to innovation in the use of drones across a variety of sectors, including inspection and surveillance services (of for example construction sites, solar farms, power plants and oil rigs), retail and e-commerce operations, media and journalism, telecommunication platforms and others.

The EU will be introducing new rules for dealing with safety, security and privacy and the protection of personal data, as well as regulating the noise and emissions generated by drones and registration aspects.  The new framework is expected in 2018, but in the meantime national legislation applies to the use of drones. This note outlines the regulatory framework and requirements for flying drones in Cyprus.

Cyprus introduced regulations controlling the use of drones in 2015, by Ministerial Decree No. 402/2015 (the “Drones Decree”) and Decision No.403/2015 (the “Drones Decision”), both issued pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Aviation Law of 2002, as amended. 

Under the applicable Cyprus framework, all drones must be registered by their owners or operators, regardless of their use. Depending on the category of drone, additional licences and permits may be required.

The Drones Decree establishes two drone categories:

  • Open Category; and
  • Special Category

Open Category includes unmanned aircraft, having a total take-off mass of less than three (3) kg, which are not involved in commercial activities, and whose maximum flight-height does not exceed 50 m (170 feet) above the ground or water. Unmanned aircraft that fall into the Open Category are not required to hold an operating license.

The flight safety of unmanned aircraft, operating in the Open Category, is safeguarded through specific operational restrictions and regulations. Open Category drones cannot be used for commercial purposes and their use is subject to certain conditions, including:

  • Flights are not permitted unless the operator has direct visual contact with the unmanned aircraft, at a distance of not more than 500 metres
  • Dropping of any object or material during the flight is prohibited.
  • A safety distance of one (1) kilometre from residential areas and five hundred (500) metres from isolated buildings, people, vehicles, animals, structures, etc (except with the permission of the owner), should be maintained. This does not apply to the operator, supporting staff, vehicles or other auxiliary apparatus that serve the flight.
  • A safety distance of at least eight (8) kilometres from an airport/landing strip and three (3) kilometres from a heliport shall be maintained.
  • Flights within prohibited, restricted, dangerous and reserved areas are not permitted, except with the permission of the owner or the relevant competent authority.
  • Unmanned aircraft of the open category are not allowed to fly at a height of more than fifty (50) metres (170 feet) above the ground or water.

The Special Category includes drones with a take-off mass in excess of 3kg (for either recreational or commercial purposes) and any drone used for commercial purposes regardless of take-off mass. The following provisions apply to the Special Category:

  • The operator of a Special Category drone must hold an Operating Licence and an Unmanned Aircraft Pilot Licence
  • The Operating Licence must define the flight activities for which the Special Category drone is licensed
  • The Unmanned Aircraft Pilot License must define the aircraft categories and types for which the Unmanned Aircraft Pilot is licensed and be accompanied by a Medical Certificate
  • Flight-height must not exceed 120 metres (400ft) over ground or water, unless a special permit is obtained
  • The Competent Authority is responsible for the evaluation, licensing and oversight of the Unmanned Aircraft Pilots Training Schools, setting conditions and restrictions, and licensing training facilities
  • The Operating Licence commits the operator to full compliance with the Competent Authority requirements
  • The issue of a Special Category, Unmanned Aircraft Operating Licence, is subject to the provision of a minimum third-party liability insurance cover of Euro 1 million.

All operators of drones must comply with applicable privacy and personal data laws including obtaining any consents or licences required by such laws.