Sunday, April 14, 2024

CAA-NL grants first permit for drone flights in the Specific category

The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (CAA-NL) has for the first time issued an operating permit for drone flights in the Specific category. It concerns drone flights in the inner rings of the CTRs of Schiphol and Rotterdam, in order to be able to make aerial recordings for the Eurovision Song Contest. The first flights have already been carried out.

Operational authorization

The operational authorization was applied for by Skytools, in partnership with SkyLynx Productions. The latter operator was asked by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation to make aerial recordings of locations located in the innermost rings of the CTRs of Schiphol and Rotterdam. However, according to the legacy drone regulations, it is not possible to perform drone flights in the inner rings, not even with a full RPAS Operator Certificate (ROC). That is why it was decided to apply for an operational authorization according to the new European model.

A SORA was developed by Skytools to substantiate the application. This describes the conditions under which the flights will be carried out. For example, the flight will not exceed 60 meters, the flights will be carried out with only one model of drone, there must be radio contact with air traffic control and a detailed emergency plan has been described in case something goes wrong. The use of a transponder is not required.

A first for the Netherlands

The issue of this first authorization for a flight in the Specific category is a first for the Netherlands. Operators who want more options than those offered in the Open category will automatically be confronted with the Specific category. Unless there is a flight according to a standard scenario, an own risk analysis will have to be drawn up, based on the SORA method. This is not a simple matter, which is why the help of experts had to be called in. It is expected that several dozen operators will become active in the Specific category in the course of 2021, including many of the current ROC permit holders.

The fact that drones are flown in the inner ring of a CTR is not a first in itself. In 2020 various test flights were made at Schiphol itself. However, then there was a temporary change in the law. At the time, this was possible because manned air traffic had almost come to a standstill as a result of the corona pandemic.

Smooth process

Skytools and SkyLynx as well as the ILT are pleased with the way in which the application for the permit was handled. “The whole process went smoothly. Actually, the application was handled by the ILT without many problems. It is a costly process though: the processing of the permit application alone costs more than 2,500 euros, not to mention the tens of hours spent writing the SORA,” says Ivanka Kösters of Skytools.

Daniel de Ruiter of SkyLynx is also satisfied. “It is really unique what is currently being done for Eurovision. Thanks to the social importance of the song festival, all kinds of doors are opening at the various authorities. I feel very honored to be able to do this for NOS and the other production companies, in collaboration with Skytools. For example, I have since made recordings of the Sparta Stadium in Rotterdam. It is the first time that a drone has been flown legally there. ”

Callsign and Certificate of Airworthiness

During the processing of the permit application, two interesting issues surfaced. For example, a drone that is used under European regulations may not have a national PH registration, while such a callsign is normally required during radio contact with the control tower. To get around this, it has been agreed with LVNL that the drone will receive a different callsign, in this case SkyLynx 1.

Another issue concerned the status of the special Certificate of Airworthiness. Under the old ROC permit, it was still mandatory to have such a certificate for all drones, regardless of the method of deployment. This necessity was not addressed when applying for this operational license for the Specific category. Instead, a ‘self statement’ indicates how the operator ensures proper operation of the drone.

Wiebe de Jager

Wiebe de Jager is the founder of Dronewatch (available in Dutch and English). Wiebe is an experienced drone pilot (EASA Specific category certified) and has published a number of bestselling books about drone photography and cinematography.

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