Contributor: Sergi Giménez & Miquel Campos Faura
1. Are UAS considered as “aircraft” in your country?
Yes, they are. Pursuant to article 11 of the Law 48/1960 of 21st July, of Air Navigation (the “Air Navigation Act”), UAS are considered as aircraft in Spain and therefore subject to the specific aviation law both domestic and European.
Said article 11 has suffered recent changes in the last years. The first change, in 2014, was made to include the remotely-piloted definition of these devices in the definition of aircraft. The second amendment of this article, in 2020, extended said definition to completely autonomous aircraft in accordance with the new European regulations.
It is worth pointing out that even if UAS are considered aircrafts, and therefore the legislation applicable to aircraft also apply on their operations, if said operations are performed indoors, no aerial regulations shall apply to these flights.
2. Which bodies regulate the remotely-piloted and/or unmanned aircraft operations in your country, under what basic laws?
From an international level, multilateral conventions such as the Convention on International Civil Aviation, of 7 December 1944 (the “Chicago Convention”) and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (“ICAO”) Circulars set forth the main rules of how drones must be treated and regulated by states. Spain, as a state party to the Chicago Convention, must comply with the provisions, resolutions and recommendations issued by ICAO, including those relating to drone regulatory developments.
At European Union level, Spain just like other EU Member States is currently under a regulatory transition period, adapting its national regulations to the present and future harmonised European legal framework.
Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2018 provides that the design, production, maintenance and operations of unmanned aircraft will be subject to European Commission legal control, notwithstanding its maximum take-off weight (“MTOW”). This legal control has crystalized in the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945, of 12 March 2019, for manufacturers (“EU Regulation 2019/945”) and the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, of 24 May 2019, for UAS operations (“EU Regulation 2019/947”). This last one entered into force on January 1st, 2021.
The implementation of this regulations in Spain is mainly carried out by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA”) and the Spanish National Aviation Authority (“AESA”). The former, providing and supplying guidance material to operators and public entities on how to implement and apply the regulations, and the latter, supervising and controlling the compliance of the laws.
However, due to the transition period above indicated, main UAS domestic law in Spain for UAS, the Royal Decree 1036/2017, of 15 December, which regulates the use of civil remotely piloted aircraft (“RD 1036/2017”) has been partially repealed and replaced by the recent European regulations. Nevertheless, some of the articles may still be in force if said provisions do not contradict the European provisions.
Furthermore, as above described, as per their condition as aircraft, UAS are also subject to other various aviation and non-aviation related laws such as, the Act on Aviation Safety and/or those laws applicable to data protection (the “GDPR”) and privacy, telecommunications and aerial photography restrictions and damage compensation limits, even specific export controls, to name but a few.
3. Is there a distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS”?
Yes, it is. From EU Regulations’ perspective, Regulation 2018/1139 considers “State UAS” those unmanned aircraft operated by a public authority when military, customs, police, Search and Rescue, firefighting, border, forestry and coastal surveillance or similar activities are performed. To said activities, European regulation will defer legal requirements to the domestic laws of the Member States.
Particularly in Spain, Royal Decree 601/2016, of 2 December, is the specific regulation for UAS with military purposes. Furthermore, non-military public state drones, are subject to RD 1036/2017 (the section not repealed by the EU regulations). For said public operations (i.e., the various police national or regional bodies, traffic surveillance, National Intelligence Centre activities and Customs Authority’s activities) operational restrictions applicable to private operators shall not apply and, conversely, their own internal safety protocols will apply to adjust their activities to the scope of the public body that is providing the service or carrying out the relevant flight. Therefore, it would be the relevant public body (e.g., the police) and not AESA the entity responsible for the operational authorisation and establishing the requirements but obliged to comply with certain minimum safety measures.
Besides, as happens with manned aircraft, in the case of anti-drug, anti-terrorism or where there are severe public threats, the state security forces shall not be obliged to issue a NOTAM for the specific operations carried out in the airspace.
Everything falling outside the limits of what is considered a public or state UAS activity (professional and recreational UAS operators, for example) will be then subject to said EU regulations. Recently the Ministry of Transport of Spain has released a first draft of a Project of Royal Decree which will develop the requirements and safety and operational process for those state UAS activities, which is intended to entry into force on 2021.
4. Is there any distinction between public, leisure and commercial UAS? What regulations are provided for UAS operations in each group?
Since the distinction between public and private UAS activities has been already explained in the above section, we will focus here to distinguish leisure from commercial UAS operations.
The RD 1036/2017 made some minor differentiations on leisure or recreational and professional activities. These were essentially by making a distinction between commercial and non-commercial specialised air operations, defining the former as an air operation carried out by a UAS for hire or reward in which a remuneration, financial compensation or consideration is given or promised with respect to the flight of the object of the flight. Therefore, any operation falling outside this definition could not be considered as a commercial operation, and perhaps considered as a “leisure” one.
However, as above stated, as of January 1st, 2021, EU Regulation 2019/947 entered into force. From said moment, EU regulation replaced all provisions relating to leisure and commercial operations foreseen in the RD 1036/2017.
The new EU regulation does not make distinction between leisure and commercial UAS, to the extent that even both type of operations may be under a same classification (in the OPEN category, for example). Now, the requirements to perform the flight will not focus on the kind of activity but on the level of risk.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, EU Regulation 2019/947 lays down the framework of operations relating to leisure drones subject to aeromodelling clubs and associations which will be subject to a specific authorisation to be able to fly the drones under the wing of said association, with the restrictions established in the authorisation issued by AESA.
5. Is there a distinction, in terms of regulation, between completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS?
The main distinction between autonomous drones and RPAS is the capacity of the pilot to access the control to manage and pilot the aircraft at any time. Taking into account this distinction, under RD 1036/2017 only RPAS were regulated. Therefore, since no reference was made to completely autonomous UAS, these were not authorised to fly. Autonomous UAS were only allowed to fly in Spain for military activities.
However, with the entry into force of the EU Regulation 2019/947, no distinction or restriction applies to both. In this regard, no differences apply to RPAS or autonomous UAS in terms of requirements or specific authorisations because what will decide the number of requirements or safety measures to apply will be the risk to air and ground that the operation poses. For example, in the event of simultaneous autonomous UAS flights or swarms, this could even fall within the SPECIFIC category, or depending on the nature of the flights, perhaps a Light UAS Operator Certificate will be required so that the risk can be properly mitigated.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations - Safety
6. How are UAS operations regulated in terms of safety?
Applicable regulation on UAS operations in Spain is in line with the main safety measures provided by the supranational organizations (EASA and ICAO basically). The operator of the UAS is responsible for the operation and the aircraft. The operator must comply with the regulations applicable to the aerial performance including those related to the data protection or radio spectrum – among others. Spanish requirements must be complied with unless there is a contradiction with the most recent enacted European Regulations (namely, Regulation (EU) 2018/1139, of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2018 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Aviation Safety Agency amending, among others, the former Regulation (EU) 216/2008; and the most recent, the Regulation (EU) 2019/945, of 12 March 2019 on unmanned aircraft systems and on third-country operators of unmanned aircraft systems; and Regulation (EU) 2019/947, of 24 May 2019 on the rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft). Where there is a contradiction, European Regulation restrictions shall apply.
As a result of the replacement of the legal provisions in RD 1036/2017, safety provisions in European Regulations will apply to all commercial and non-commercial operations in Spain. A few examples of said safety requirements are described as follows:
- As a result of the entry into force of the European Regulations, safety requirements shift from weight-centric to risk-centric. Therefore, safety measures will increase or decrease according to the risk posed by the operation. The degree of safety measures will be divided in the three categories provided in the EU Regulation 2019/947 from “OPEN” for the lowest risk operations, to “SPECIFIC” and “CERTIFIED” where operational risk increases.
- Low risk operations will fall under the “OPEN” category. This may include both professional and leisure/recreational flights. Based on said low risk, no operational authorisation or declaration is required before starting the operation. UAS operators falling under this category will need to ensure that:
- UAS is marked with one of the “C” classification or, if privately built, in compliance with art. 20 of the EU Regulation 2019/947.
- MTOW does not exceed from 25 Kg.
- UAS pilot ensures safe distance from uninvolved people on the ground and other users of the airspace flying always in VLOS or EVLOS.
- UAS will be maintained within 120 meters from closest point of surface.
- UAS may not transport dangerous goods or drop materials.
- The above requirements are complied in accordance with one of the three subcategories (A1, A2 and A3)
- If any of the above requirements is not met, the operation will fall within the “SPECIFIC” Category and the UAS operator will need to obtain from the competent authority the necessary authorisation or submit prior declaration. In case of Spain, said authority is the Spanish Safety Aviation Authority, AESA.
- UAS operator developing a “SPECIFIC” category flight will need to conduct a Specific Operational Risk Assessment (“SORA”), which will include all risk mitigation measures, to ensure that risks are covered during said operation.
- Depending on the risk of the operation, said mitigation measures may increase or decrease. Likewise, for certain operations where risk is already defined under a standard scenario (“STS”) UAS operation may be performed without operational authorisation but with a prior operational declaration submitted to AESA declaring that the operation meets the STS requirements.
- In those “SPECIFIC” category flights, UAS operators will comply with operational restrictions and limitations as declared in the operational declaration or the operational authorisation, where it will establish if it is for specific flights or for any flight in similar situations.
- Finally, it UAS operation entails, transport of people, or dangerous goods or flying over assemblies of people, UAS operator will need to proceed as required for the “CERTIFIED” category. Safety measures for the certified category will be provided in the authorisation issued by AESA. The EU Regulation which will set forth the procedure for aircraft, pilot and operator certification in this category is currently under development.
- To ensure all type of flight categories, UAS operators shall also ensure that UAS pilot competence is in accordance with the risk of the operation and for “SPECIFIC” category, the SORA is performed in accordance with requirements provided in article 11 of the EU Regulation 2019/947.
- Certain documentation needs to be kept and updated for any flight such as, (i) configuration of the aircraft, (ii) Operation Manual, (iii) Aeronautical security assessment (specific or generic for any operation comprising all possible scenarios), (iv) test flight with successful results, and (v) updated maintenance program.
During the flight, UAS pilots must avoid reckless manoeuvres, taking additional measures to ensure the security and safety of properties and people on the ground and for other airspace users which will need to be expressly informed of the risks of the operation. Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 introduces a new safety measure to Member Sates which will be able to ban, restrict or allow special zones for specific purposes based in the environmental protection, safety or privacy (for example, critical facilities, hospitals or densely populated urban areas, other air infrastructures or certain class of airspaces).
These UAS geographical zones will have then special conditions if an UAS operator wants to use a UAS within this area, which information and requirements will be available to the public.
Finally, during the operation, the RPAS needs to be insured as provided in the RD 1036/2017, which provisions in insurance obligations are still applicable until new Project of Royal Decree is approved.
7. Is the applicable regulation considering the rule of 1 UAS = 1 pilot?
In the past RD 1036/2017, it was established that the pilot was not entitled to perform a flight with more than one aircraft at the same moment.
By contrast, EU Regulation 2019/947 provides that the UAS operator must ensure that a pilot must always be in charge of each operation of UAS (even if this is an autonomous operation); however it is not expressly specified that one pilot cannot manage or be in charge more than one autonomous aircraft at the same time. Therefore, each authorisation filed to AESA will need to be analysed case by case in order to consider the risks posed in the operation (for example) carried out by a swarm of UAS in a densely populated area. As the state of UAS technology improves, it is possible that AESA will request to apply the 1 UA = 1 pilot rule until the technical or safety standards allow to carry out this operation without risks, probably with the development of a Standard Scenario or after the implementation of the U-Space.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") Operations - Licensing
8. What procedures are there to obtain licenses or the rights to operate UAS?
Before the entry into force of EU Regulation 2019/947, carrying out an administrative procedure for flying UAS lawfully was required as a general rule. As a result of the entry into force of said EU Regulation in Spain, no license is required to operate UAS in the “OPEN” category.
However, a common rule for all UAS operators, notwithstanding their category or if the operation is professional or for leisure, is the obligation to register themselves in the AESA by electronic means only, obtaining a unique registration code allowing individual identification.
As the risk increases, operational authorisation or just operational declaration will need to be submitted to AESA before starting the flight in the “SPECIFIC” category.
The process to fly in this category with the necessary permits entails to go through an administrative process before the AESA in accordance with the requirements specified in the EU Regulation 2019/947. In this regard, three “licenses” can be granted by AESA depending on the type of flight intended:
- Operational Authorization: UAS operator will need to file to AESA a request for Operational Authorisation when the intended operation does not meet all the conditions set forth for the “OPEN” category. The request will comprise the definition of all the features of the intended operation, a SORA evidencing actions adopted to mitigate risk during all phases of the flight. AESA will analyse and consider if the risk is properly mitigated and if measures adopted are sufficient. If the outcome is positive, AESA will issue the Operational Authorisation, confirming if it is issued for one or for generic operations.
- Operational Declaration: Certain scenarios will not require a specific Operational Authorisation since the list of risk mitigation measures are generic taking into account the low risk of this “SPECIFIC” flight. In said cases, where a Operational Authorisation could be unnecessary, UAS operator just will need to provide a Operational Declaration to AESA declaring that it is in compliance with all the requirements legally foreseen for said specific operational scenario. Operational Declarations can only be approved for those STS approved by the EASA or by AESA which list will be increased with the increase of the safety in the flights using UAS.
- Light UAS Operator Certificate (“LUC”): Finally, for those UAS operators having a qualified organisation of professionals with a high number of flights or operations, LUC option provides sufficient flexibility to self-authorise the operations without the need to submit declarations or lose time during Operational Authorisation process. This concept is similar for a conventional AOC with less requirements. UAS operators with the intention to obtain LUC will need to evidence sufficient qualification of their personnel and having a safety management system and a quality system duly implemented.
9. Are there any kind of taxes or fees regarding the licensing procedure?
As of the date of this report, no taxes or fees are required for the communication or performance of activities notwithstanding their 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.
10. Is a Certificate of Airworthiness mandatory to operate a UAS?
In principle, no Certificate of Airworthiness are mandatory to UAS according to European Regulations. However, future “CERTIFIED” category regulations may include the prior requirement to obtain a Certificate of Airworthiness to carry out flights under this category considering the high level of risk posed by this operation.
11. Is access to the market for the provision of UAS operation services regulated and, if so, how?
The access to the market in Spain is regulated just for the requirements that a UAS operator and its aircrafts have to meet to comply with the air navigation and air safety regulations.
Beyond this, there is no other specific rule applying to the provision of UAS services than the general provisions above described (i.e. class “C” marking for UAS in the “OPEN” category (from C0 to C4) to be able to fly lawfully. As per EU Regulation 2019/945 these requirements must be already implemented in the drone by the manufacturer with the relevant CE markings of conformity and drone class duly placed in the drone. If any of the requirements to fly under said OPEN category is not met, then a specific authorisation must be obtained.
12. What requirements apply in the areas of financial strength and nationality of ownership regarding control of UAS?
No specific requirements apply for financial strength and nationality ownership regarding control of UAS.
13. Is drone transport permitted / regulated in your country?
Although RD 1036/2017 did not foresee the transport of cargo by UAS unless issuance of special permit for said purposes by AESA, EU Regulation 2019/947 opens the window to UAS operators to provide said services to exploit said market. However, the nature of the transport of goods by UAS will probably be subject to additional risk mitigation measures, especially if these are performed in urban areas with congested air traffic (controlled airspace). All of the foregoing must be authorised by AESA case by case, eventually.
in addition, article 6.1 b) ii. of EU Regulation 2019/947 provides that the operation will fall under the CERTIFIED category if the drone transports people or dangerous goods. Another evidence that the European regulators have included in the regulation to confirm that the transport operations will be allowed, is the provision that during the flight, the UAS shall not drop any material (drone delivery) and if it does, will fall under the SPECIFIC category.
From the European perspective, the point of view differs. Article 6.1 b) ii. of Implementing Regulation 2019/947 provides that the operation will fall under the CERTIFIED category if the drone transports people or dangerous goods. Another clue that the European lawmakers have included in the regulation to evidence that the transport operations will be allowed, could be the statement that, during the flight the drone shall not drop any material and if it does, will fall under the SPECIFIC category as well.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") - Operations - Others
14. Is there a specific Data & Privacy Protection regulation applicable to UAS operations?
Article 7 of the RD 1036/2017 introduced applicability of data protection regulations during UAS operations and the operator shall be responsible to comply with said regulations. The foregoing is aligned with the provisions of EU Regulation 2019/947, hence is still applicable.
Furthermore, it enables the Spanish Data Protection Agency to proceed with the corresponding disciplinary and inspection files to confirm if drone operations are carried out in accordance with the applicable regulations in data protection matters. The regulations concerning data protection applicable to UAS operations are the same as for any other activities only if the relevant UAS is collecting and recording personal details, a person is identified or can be identified.
If this is the case, the requirements, obligations, rights, and fines provided in the Spanish Data Protection Act and the regulations of the European Union (General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679) will be applicable, and the Spanish Data Protection Agency could initiate administrative proceedings against it. In addition, those UAS which activity could pose a risk to privacy and data protection, will be obliged to register their UAS and themselves in the EU interoperable Registry through AESA.
15. Is there a specific control-link interference regulation applicable to UAS operations?
Under RD 1036/2017 operators shall comply with the radio spectrum regulations as regards the operation with its UAS. This means that the regulations on General Telecommunications (Act 9/2014 of 9th May) are applicable to its operations and the European regulations of this matter (Directive 2014/53/UE, and other complementary legislation as well). In case of non-complying with the provisions of said legislation, the fines described in the Act 9/2014 shall apply.
In the Spanish perspective, the UAS operator and the UAS pilot shall comply with the CNAF (National frequency allocation table), not only in respect of the aircraft itself but also in relation to the link with the control station and any other device remotely controlled by means of a radio frequency. Regarding said regulations, the operators shall keep their communications safe from unlawful interference, duly encrypted and try to protect the links with the aircraft free of any interception, and protect the data transferred in the electronic communications.
Under European Regulations, minimum requirements for drones to be used under OPEN category indicate that UAS shall be safely controllable with regards to the data link performance following manufacturer instructions. Likewise, it is repeated the obligation mentioned under Spanish law to maintain all operations with a safe data-link equipment preventing from any kind of interference.
16. Do specific rules regulate UAS manufacturers?
Since the EU Regulation 2019/945 came into force, all manufacturers, authorised representatives, importers, agents and distributors involved in introducing the drones into the market must comply with the requirements provided in said regulation which goes from the MTOW, sound power level or voltage, to CE marking or EU conformity.
The Regulation deeply develops the requirements for manufacturers and the rest of stakeholders but just for those drones which will fall under the OPEN category, creating the requirements that the operators must comply by-design transferring the bulk of the compliance efforts on said manufacturers and just leaving to the operators some minimum requirements. However, for those drones dedicated to SPECIFIC and CERTIFIED category of operations, the regulation obliges to certify the design, production and maintenance of said drones.
17. What requirements must a foreign UAS operator satisfy in order to operate to or from your country?
The requirements to operate UAS in Spain are contained in the above referred Delegated Regulation 2019/945 which in its Article 41 indicates the requirements that the third-country UAS operator to fly in Spain will be those provided by AESA as the competent authority in Spain.
In practice, third-country UAS operating in Spain will have to comply with the same rules and restrictions than those applicable to Spanish or EU operators. Among other aspects, the Member State may recognize the foreign certificate of remote pilot competency and UAS operators’ certificate as valid in the Member State if such third country has previously asked for said recognition.
18. Are fares or pricing of UAS operations regulated and, if so, how?
The prices for UAS operations in Spain are not regulated.
The Aircraft (“UAS”)
19. Must UAS be registered in any particular register?
As advanced in section 8 above, all UAS operators shall register themselves and the UAS operated by them in the event that any of the following conditions are met:
- The UAS has an MTOW exceeding 250 grams or in case of impact, a kinetic energy superior to 80 Jules can be transferred.
- A sensor or device capable to register personal details is attached to the UAS (like cameras or microphones, unless complies with the European Directives applicable to toys.
- When the UAS is used in “SPECIFIC” category.
- When the design of a UAS is subject to certification process.
UAS operators shall register the UAS and the relevant unique digital registration number shall be displayed in the UAS. Said registry is interoperative and contains information of all EU operators.
Furthermore, in accordance with the non-repealed provisions of RD 1036/2017 and Royal Decree 384/2015, of 22nd May, by which it is approved the Regulation on civil aircraft registration, only drones with an MTOW exceeding 25kg would be subject to mandatory registration at the Spanish Aircraft Registry (“RMA”).
However, taking into account the singular aircraft registration system in Spain, those drones subject to registration at the Aircraft Registry will need to be registered with the Movable Assets Registry (“MAR”) firstly. The basis for this dual registration system lies in the provisions of Royal Decree 384/2015, of 22 May, pursuant to which the Regulation of the civil aircraft registry is approved.
The main features of this dual registration system can be summarised as follows.
- Spanish Aircraft Registry: The RMA falls under the jurisdiction of AESA. The RMA is an administrative registry of aircraft, but not a registry of title or ownership of aircraft. It is operator-based. The main effect of registration is that an aircraft is provided with a Spanish registration number (beginning with the letters EC, followed by a hyphen and a combination of three letters, e.g., EC-XXX) and thus becomes a Spanish aircraft.
- Movable Assets Registry: the MAR falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. The MAR is a register of title, ownership and encumbrances over movable assets, including aircraft. The main effect of registration is that evidence is provided in respect of the status of ownership and liens over assets.
However, the above could change when Project Royal Decree in Spain is approved. The draft document of said project would provide that only UAS which design is subject to certification will be obliged to register in the RMA and therefore, previously in the MAR.
20. Who is entitled to be mentioned in the UAS register?
In the AESA register, UAS operator is who will be registered.
The owner of the aircraft will be entitled to be mentioned in the Spanish Aircraft Registry and the MAR. Also, the lessee is entitled if there exists one. The rules of the registry information are the same as conventional aircrafts and are detailed in the Royal Decree 384/2015 of 22nd May, by which was approved the Regulation on civil aircraft registration.
21. Do requirements or limitations apply to the ownership of a UAS listed on your country’s register?
No limitations to the ownership of a UAS listed in the Spanish Aircraft Registry applies. However, EU Regulation 2019/947 provides that an UAS and an operator may not be registered in more than one country.
22. Do specific rules regulate the maintenance of UAS?
UAS Operators are obliged to establish a maintenance program so that the UAS functions properly and safely.
The maintenance requirements will differ depending on the category of the operation.
In “OPEN” category operations, UAS operator will perform maintenance of the aircraft adjusted to the recommendations in the manufacturer’s manual.
In “SPECIFIC” category operations, UAS maintenance will be carried out by the operator following the instructions from the duly qualified maintenance personnel or department (within the organisation of the operator or out of it), for these purposes, UAS operator will need to:
- Develop the instructions for the maintenance procedures and include them in the Operators Manual.
- Describe the minimum qualifications and requirements of the personnel dedicated to the maintenance tasks of UAS and keep the list of said personnel.
- Keep an updated log system of the status of the UAS and the maintenance inspections, events and findings (of at least the las 3 years).
AESA has published on its website a set of guiding materials and acceptable means of compliance with the reviews and tests to be carried out in a drone operator’s maintenance program, which provides the minimum necessary revisions and tests to be carried out on the UAS.
23. Which are the operational and distance limitations for an aerial work with a UAS? Is there any kind of certificate or permission to operate beyond those limitations?
The repeal of the RD 1036/2017 as a result of the entry into force of the EU Regulation 2019/947 has removed all domestic regulations concerning distance limitations and licensing process. All limitations and restrictions to flight must be observed in accordance with the EU Regulations.
In case of “OPEN” category, those restrictions are detailed in the Annex of the above EU Regulation depending on the subcategory intended to fly (A1, A2 or A3).
In case of “SPECIFIC” category operations, the limitations and restrictions will be those declared in the Operational Authorisation, which may differ depending on the operation requested for authorisation, or in the relevant STS Operational Declaration.
The same shall apply for those UAS operators holding a Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC) where the restrictions applicable to it will depend on what is provided in the LUC for said operation.
24. Are UAS obliged to take off from and/or land in specific facilities?
In accordance with article 150. 2 of the Air Navigation Act, it is not required to use specific facilities for taking-off or landing the UAS except in those cases in which the law provides it.
This case could be, by way of example, if an Operational Authorisation (or future STS) issued by AESA provides that the UAS must take-off/land from a specific facility such as aerodromes or heliports.
25. Which kind of airspaces are UAS permitted to operate with?
As per current regulations on drone operations, these are allowed to fly within all class of airspaces classification from A to G class airspace in accordance with SERA.6001 foreseen in Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1185 of the Commission of 20th July 2016 provided that all requirements to fly in each zone are met, including the prior request to the ATS provider if flying in controlled airspace. However, depending on the type of activity that the drone is carrying out (i.e. fly over crowds or in urban areas) and also depending on the type of drone used, the requirements could vary from a simple communication to obtaining an authorisation from the AESA and carry out the operation in coordination with the said ATS provider and in some cases with the local authority (police or other local administrations, for example).
26. Which airspaces are restricted for UAS?
For non-certified operations or if the relevant requirements of each operation are not met, Airspaces from A to E class would be restricted to civil UAS depending on the kind of aircraft and activity as described above. Therefore, if the Authorisation issued by the Spanish Aviation Authority foresees the possibility to fly these spaces the operation will be allowed. Also, those airspaces classified as “R” class, “D” (Dangerous), and those zones with sensitive wildlife will operate with the same manner for RPAS as for conventional aircrafts.
27. Which zones are UAS operations banned?
UAS operation will be banned in those zones classified as “P” class airspace which only permits flying to the State and Military UAS as well as sensitive State facilities (e. g. Nuclear power plants and other critical facilities). Notwithstanding the above, if the relevant authorisation is obtained from the Spanish authorities, operations in these zones will be permitted but restricted to the limitations provided in such authorisations.
In the Project of Royal Decree, Spain is taking advantage of the delegation of competences in UAS Geographical Zones, provided in article 18 of the EU Regulation 2019/947. Said geographical zones will include additional coordination restrictions in flights close to certain infrastructures or urban areas, where certain prior authorisations will be required.
28. Who provides air traffic control services for UAS in your country?
The Air Traffic Control (ATC) is entitled to provide air traffic control services (ATS) in Spain which can be divided in the following stages:
(i) Aerodrome control service: Provided by the control tower from the aerodromes in charge of the land movements and movement in its proximities.
(ii) Approach control service: Provides air traffic control to the users of the controlled airspace relating to the take-off and landings.
(iii) Area control service: Provides air traffic control to those aircrafts which are not in the aerodrome or in approach phase.
Furthermore, there are also FIS (Flight Information Service) providing useful information to all users and ALRS (Alert Service) responsible for informing relevant entities in respect of aircrafts which require save and rescue assistance.
Liability and Accidents
29. Are there any special rules in respect of loss or damage to cargo?
No Specific rules for loss or damage to cargo transported by UAS has been yet enacted, therefore conventional air transport and damage compensation provisions will apply.
30. Are there any special rules about the liability of UAS operators for surface damage?
Under the Air Navigation Act, UAS are considered as aircraft, hence in case of damages to third parties the same liabilities than conventional aircraft will be applicable to UAS. Pursuant to RD 1036/2017, the UAS operator is liable for the operations carried out by its drone towards the authorities and against third parties, same applies from the European Regulations. In this regard, the compensation rules foreseen in Royal Decree 37/2001 are applicable to those drones whose MTOW does not exceed from 20kg. For drones of more than 20kg of MTOW the limits and liabilities for surface damage of Regulation (EC) No. 785/2004 shall apply.
31. Is there a mandatory accident and incident reporting system and, if so, how does it operate?
If a drone accident occurs, the operator must notify the event to the Commission for the Investigation of Accidents and Incidents on Civil Aviation, to the SNS or the Events National System of AESA. If the Commission considers that the incident presents an important issue for operational security, an investigation will be opened in accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EU) No. 996/2010.
All events that can be considered a potential incident or accident must be notified by the drone operator to the SNS within 72 hours of the moment the event occurred. Communication to the authority can be made electronically through the AESA website. Then, the administrative process will start in accordance with the Air Safety Act.
32. What system and procedures are in place for the investigation of UAS accidents?
UAS are subject to the same incident reporting procedure as conventional aircraft in Spain. This procedure is established in the Act 21/2003 of 7th July, of Aerial Safety, and in the Regulation (EU) no. 996/2010 of the European Parliament and Council of 20th October 2010. The former determines the competent authority for the investigation of serious incidents and accidents in civil aviation. The competent body for this task is the Commission for Accidents and Incidents of Civil Aviation subject to the Spanish Development Ministry. The investigation will be ruled by the provisions of the Regulation above mentioned and by the Royal Decree 389/1998 of 13th March, by means of which the investigation of civil aviation incidents and accidents are regulated, and the resolutions of this administrative body are public.
33. Are UAS operators obliged to have insurance for their operations? If so, which are their main features?
Although European regulations state that the insurance policy must be obtained, those leave to the Member States the requirements and restrictions for these insurances.
RD 1036/2017, which part has not been yet repealed or replaced by the Project Royal Decree, sets forth the obligation for the UAS operator to subscribe and maintain an insurance policy or any other equivalent financial guarantee to operate UAS. This insurance must be specific for the aviation industry because drones fall under the category of “aircraft” under the Spanish law; therefore, a simple insurance liability is not enough. It would be necessary to subscribe a specific insurance often referred to as third party liability, which must cover operators for damage caused by its aircraft or its payload to the ground (goods and physical damages) and to other airspace users.
The fact that the operator has subscribed the relevant insurance policy and that this is still in force needs to be proven before the AESA before starting its operations.
34. What is insured? The operator, the business or the aircraft?
According to article 126 of the Air Navigation Act, the aircraft (UAS) is the element that needs to be insured. In addition, RD 1036/2017 sets out as well the obligation of the operator to subscribe and maintain an insurance policy.
In this respect, it is necessary to subscribe a new insurance for each aircraft of the operator, and all of them need to be provided to the competent authority. This does not prevent the operator from entering into other kinds of insurances, but it is necessary to fly the UAS lawfully.
Financial Support and State Aid
35. Are there sector-specific rules regulating direct or indirect financial support to companies by the government or government-controlled agencies or companies (state aid) in the UAS sector? If not, do general state aid rules apply?
No sector-specific rules regulate direct or indirect financial support to UAS companies by government. However, the main entities which are contributing with the financial strength of the Spanish UAS market are private equity funds and other private investors. On a State aid level, as UAS operators can be considered as start-up companies with a highly technological component, they can obtain credit lines from the Official Credit Institute, the Center for the Technological Industrial Development – CDTI (mainly for R+D projects) or ENISA.
At the regional level, several authorities have promoted the creation of drone hubs, like the Catalonia Smart Drone Project of the Government of Catalonia or the project of the Aerospace Technique National Institute (INTA) in the Centre of Excellence Unmanned Air Systems (CEUS) in Andalucía. Those projects are also for research, development, and testing of new inventions and upgrades on drones and special devices attached.
36. What are the main principles of the stated aid rules applicable to the UAS sector?
The principles of the organizations mentioned above are to foster feasible and innovative business projects. In case of CDTI, it is necessary that the project could be implemented to develop the process or service in the industrial sector.
37. Are there exemptions from the state aid rules or situations in which they do not apply?
No exemptions apply in general terms. The aids are just for developing feasible business projects which are subject to study by the public organizations before approval.
38. Must clearance from the competition authorities be obtained before state aid may be granted?
It is not required to have clearance from competition authorities at this stage for the UAS Spanish industry.