Certification and licensingBasic requirements and procedures
What certificates or licences are required to operate drones and what procedures apply?
Flying drones lawfully in Spain requires carrying out certain administrative procedures. Depending on the maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of the drone, the administrative proceeding will differ.
For drone operations with a MTOW of less than 25kg, outside controlled airspace, crowds and urban areas, with visual meteorological conditions (VMC) and visual line of sight (VLOS) range, it is only necessary to submit a prior communication to Spain’s Aviation Safety State Agency (AESA) five business days before starting the operations. That notice shall contain certain technical documents of the aircraft, information about the pilots, insurance certificates and some other information such as an aeronautical safety test. Once the communication has been received, the licence is valid without time restrictions of any kind, but new communications need to be submitted if there is any modification to the documents or details initially provided to the authorities.
If the drone exceeds 25kg MTOW, then the operation shall require an administrative authorisation to be issued by AESA. Also, a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPA) airworthiness certificate needs to be obtained, and registration of the drone will be also required by the authorities.
Additionally, operators flying drones between 25kg and 50kg MTOW will need to comply with several additional measures such as having an appropriate business organisation and management to guarantee compliance with the legal requirements and the nomination of duly qualified operations managers.
In addition to the foregoing, a drone operator can request and obtain special certificates for specific types of operations, such as flying above urban areas, within controlled airspace, during the night or from moving vehicles. For each special certificate, certain documents and evidence of accomplishment of tests will need to be submitted to AESA.
At the moment of the entry into force and application of Regulation (EU) 2019/947, the above system will change and move to a risk-based operation. Depending on the risk of the operation, the aircraft will be classified within one of the three categories established in the regulation and different requirements will apply:
- The OPEN category, defined as the one with less operational risk, will release unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators from requiring any kind of authorisation or making a prior operational declaration of compliance to carry out operations that fall under this category. In addition, the new UAS Regulation removes from operators the burden of having to comply with most of the technical aspects of their aircraft; this burden will fall now on the UAS manufacturers and distributors.
- The SPECIFIC category will apply to those operations with UAS where the flight entails a certain level of risk, higher than in the OPEN category. Here a risk assessment will be key for each operation. In these scenarios we will find certain administrative processes with the aviation authorities where UAS operators will need to request an authorisation, obtain a specific LUC (Light UAS operator Certificate) that grants the operator certain privileges, or make an operational declaration if the flight is considered within the range of an Standard Scenario.
- Finally, the CERTIFIED category is reserved for operations with certified UAS and flights carried out where, due to the risk involved, they cannot be included in either of the two previous categories. That is to say, those drones the design, production and maintenance of which have to be certified will fall within this category. For example, this would apply to aircraft with a dimension of more than 3 metres or designed to fly over assemblies of people or for the transportation of people.
Are certification and licensing procedures subject to any taxes or fees?
As the time of writing, no taxes or fees are required for the communication of activities for a drone of less than 25 kg MTOW. With respect to authorisations or certifications, certain taxes and administrative fees are involved, not for the authorisation process itself but for other procedures before applying for the authorisation, such as the airworthiness certificate procedure or the registrar fees of the Spanish Aircraft Registry.Eligibility
Who may apply for certifications and licences? Do any restrictions apply?
In respect of operators: for the time being, there are no nationality or citizenship restrictions applying to drone operators. If a company or a person (whether a Spanish resident or not) wishes to obtain a licence as a Spanish drone operator, certain documentary requirements must be met, such as insurance certificates, affidavits relating to the intended operations, evidence of satisfactory flight tests, personal details of the pilots and the drones subject to the licence of the operator, an operations manual and risk assessments.
In respect of the aircraft:
- if the drone has an MTOW of less than 25 kg, no licensing restrictions apply; or
- if the drone has an MTOW of 25 kg or more, then it must have either a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certificate or, if it holds an airworthiness certificate issued by a non-EASA aviation authority, its airworthiness certificate will have to be recognised first by AESA.
In respect of pilots: there are no general restrictions provided in RD 1036/2017 to obtain remote pilot licences.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, when licences and authorisations are requested by non-Spanish individuals, an NIE (tax ID number) or foreigner’s ID number shall be also required, and for both cases at least a Spanish address will need to be included in the application form. Also, a Spanish tax ID number will be required for non-Spanish companies prior to the application process to become a Spanish operator.Remote pilot licences
Must remote pilots obtain any certifications or licences to operate drones? If so, do the relevant procedures differ based on the type of drone or operation?
Yes, remote pilots need to pass a theorical and a practical test to obtain the appropriate pilot’s licence. In addition, pilots cannot fly on their own unless they obtain an operator’s licence as well or have been hired by an operator. Once the pilot’s licence has been granted, it needs to be updated periodically by flying regularly and at least three times every three months. If the aircraft weighs more than 25 kg, then a higher licence is required, such as the private pilot’s licence.
Medical certificates in accordance with section MED.B.095 of Annex IV, Part MED, of Regulation (EU) No. 1178/2011, of 3 November 2011, are required for pilots permitted to fly aircraft up to 25 kg MTOW and Class 2 medical certificates for those pilots flying drones exceeding this MTOW limit.Foreign operators
Are foreign operators authorised to fly drones in your jurisdiction? If so, what requirements and restrictions apply?
As per RD 1036/2017, AESA may permit foreign operators to perform drone operations within the Spanish territory if they comply with the requirements established in the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, of 24 May 2019. In addition to this regulation, all foreign operators will need to be expressly authorised to perform any type of aerial work. AESA will authorise operations in Spanish airspace provided that the foreign drone operator submits sufficient evidence to certify that its licence complies with all the requirements provided in Spanish regulations.Certificate of airworthiness
Is a certificate of airworthiness required to operate drones? If so, what procedures apply?
Those aircraft not exceeding 25 kg MTOW will not be obliged to request and obtain a certificate of airworthiness to operate, although they may request it voluntarily. Drones with an MTOW of 25 kg or more must obtain a certificate of airworthiness from AESA. A term of six months from the application is foreseen for the airworthiness certification procedure. Airworthiness certification can be conducted, in principle, in two different ways.
First, if the aircraft already has an EASA or AESA type certificate, this can be provided together with a manufacturer’s statement to the authorities that will confirm that the aircraft is aligned with the provisions of that type certificate.
Otherwise, the procedure foreseen in Annex I, Part 21 of Regulation (EU) 748/2012, laying down implementing rules for the airworthiness and environmental certification of aircraft and related products, parts and appliances, as well as for the certification of design and production organisations, will apply. The airworthiness certificates shall include the aircraft itself, the remote pilot station, and the command and control links, as well as any other device or element used during any operation. These certificates shall have an indefinite validity unless the conditions of the aircraft change.
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28 July 2020