Is it legal to fly a drone in Ireland?

Given the falling costs and rising popularity of unmanned aircraft technology, we are currently seeing quite a spike in activity in what has effectively become an industry in its own right in recent years. Drones are currently primarily being used in three main contexts: Professional filmmaking, surveying and by hobbyists (flying and filming). Increasingly drone technology is also being used in a search and rescue capacity. Companies like Amazon and UPS are even trialing unmanned deliveries of packages in some remote parts of the US.

All of this means that we have more and more flying devices in our airspace and with this activity naturally comes regulation to ensure the safety of all involved as well as that of the general public. So who is responsible for regulating the activity of these drones or unmanned aircraft as they are also commonly defined?

Globally, drones are typically governed by exactly the same aviation rules and regulations that legislate for manned aircraft use. In Ireland the body that regulates our aerospace is known as the Irish Aviation Authority or IAA. Drone use in Ireland is specifically legislated by S.I. (Statutory Instrument) No. 563 of 2015. IRISH AVIATION AUTHORITY SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT. (DRONES) AND ROCKETS ORDER, 2015.

If you're considering buying a drone, flying a drone, or contracting a third party to fly a drone on your behalf, then you really should be reading up on this legislation to understand how it effects you and your activities or those of your businesses if operating in a commercial context. 

The IAA have produced a number of documents (available here) to better explain and support S.I. 563 of 2015. These include a 'commonly asked questions' FAQ as well as information about how to go about registering a drone in Ireland (where applicable). Also available (here) is a 'Do's and Don'ts flyer which greatly, visually simplifies these rules.

If you are thinking of flying these devices commercially, then although not strictly necessary in all cases, it is well worth considering a professional (theoretical) training course (typically 2 full days) that culminates in written and actual flight testing. A list of IAA approved training centres is available here. Personally I'd recommend training with FlyRyte as their courses are run by currently serving military aviators and instructors who bring unparalleled operational, aeronautical experience into the course material and delivery. 

Candidates who complete the training leave with a confidence to successfully operate their drones safely. FlyRyte also have a range of very useful information and links on their website and are extremely responsive to the needs of past students as and when any operational or technical issues that may arise in the months and years post training.

Even if you don't plan on flying commercially, you will need to register your drone with the IAA if it weighs more than 1kg. You may also like to undergo training so that you can be licensed if you want to be able to apply for special permissions to fly beyond the limitations set out by S.I. 563 of 2015.

Professional as well as hobbyist drone operators may also find it useful to join the Unmanned Aircraft Association of Ireland (UAAI). It's currently free to join (you can also find the UAAI on Facebook) and is designed as a resource to support the interests of all drone users operating in Irish Airspace. 

I'm also the PRO and Events Officer for 2017/18 so please feel welcome to contact me directly if you have any further questions about the Irish drone industry. Even if I can't help you directly I'll most likely know the person who can!