The drone technology develops rapidly and drones are no longer only used for military purposes or as toys. The new drone technology opens up a new market and gives rise to new business opportunities. 

In light of the development of the drone technology, the Danish Parliament has recently passed a bill governing the use of drones in Danish airspace. The purpose of the new legislation is to secure drones by professionals and individuals. The legislation adjusts the operation of small drones with a maximum weight of 25 kilos by stipulating where it is permitted to operate the drones and by imposing requirements on the operator of the drone. There is no separate regulation for drones over 25 kilos and such drones are regarded as “ordinary” aircraft and need to comply with the ordinary rules in respect of airworthiness etc. unless a specific exemption has been granted. 

Former regulation: 

The former regulation of operating drones with a maximum weight of 25 kilos was set out in Resolution regarding Civil Air Traffic, BL 9-4, 3rd edition of 9 January 2004 (“Regulation BL 9-4”).

According to Regulation BL 9-4, only drones with a maximum weight of 25 kilos were allowed to be operated and were only allowed outside urban areas. The regulation set out the maximum altitude of the drone and where it was permitted to operate the drone. Drones weighing between 7 and 25 kilos or drones using jet turbine engines were only permitted to operate from special certified model airfields and under an airplane model flying organisation approved by the Danish Civil Aviation Administration (the “Danish CAA”). A company could be granted an exemption from the rules by an application to the Danish CAA.

The new legislation simplifies the rules in respect of drone operation as the companies do not need an exemption in order to operate drones in urban areas. Instead, the permission to operate drones is based on the competences of an individual drone operator. 

New legislation:

The new legislation is set out in chapter 9 a (section 126 b - 126 i), in the Danish Air Navigation Act, (Act no. 1036 of 28 August 2013 as latest amended by the Act no. 602 of 4 June 2016). 

The new legislation also solely includes drones with a maximum weight of 25 kilos. The legislation stipulates where and how it is permitted to operate drones and imposes requirements on the drone operator. The operation of drones must not endanger life, expose property to risk of damage or cause unnecessary inconvenience. Furthermore, operation of drones are restricted within certain areas, such as security critical areas and sensitive natural resorts unless specific regulations have been introduced by the Danish CAA.

As opposed to the former regulation, the new legislation allows the operation of drones in urban areas.

Operating drones in urban areas:

In urban areas drones may be operated for professional purposes only e.g. building inspection, video recording for television, research etc. The operator must be 18 years of age and be holding a drone licence issued by the Danish CAA. The drone licence is obtained through a drone licence course offered by drone educational institutions approved by the Danish CAA which course includes theoretical training and a practical test depending on the type of drone licence the operator is acquiring. The drone licence, including the drone licence course, varies according to the drone type, the weight of the drone and whether the operator is to operate the drone with visual sight. The costs of the drone licence depend on the type of licence. 

The operator may lose his/her licence if the drone is operated under the influence of alcohol or other similar substances and the operator must be able to show his/her licence to the police on request. 

Additionally, the owner of the drone is obligated to take out public liability insurance and the drone must be identifiable by a physical marking of the drone and registered with the Danish CAA. The intention is that the drone has to be equipped with an electronical identification device in the future when the technology has developed. 

Operating drones outside urban areas:

Outside urban areas drones may be operated for professional or private use, if the drone operator has obtained a drone certificate. A member of a recognised airplane model flying organisation does not need to obtain a drone certificate, provided that the regulations of the organisation are approved by the Danish CAA. The drone certificate is obtained by a simple computer-based selfservice test, designed to secure that the drone operator has the basic knowledge of the rules on operating drones. The drone certificate will be free of charge and there will be no registration of the drone certificate, but the drone operator must be able to show the certificate to the police on request. Additionally, public liability insurance is required for all drones with a weight over 250 grams. 

The entry into force:

The new legislation regarding drone operation in urban areas entered into force on 1 September 2016, whereas, the legislation in respect of drone operation outside urban areas entered into force on 1 January 2017.