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Drones in Ireland – When is a license not a license?

What is a drone license?

Well, the first thing to point out is that there is no “drone license” in Ireland. You are granted permission, and many assume this to be a license, but it is not. This permission allows you to operate within the criteria of your operation’s category.

Commercial vs Recreational

There is no longer a distinction in regulatory terms between commercial and recreational operations. Where there will be a distinction is in terms of insurance and public liability. While the regulator advises all drone operators to have public liability, it is mandatory to have an EC 785/2004 compliant policy for commercial operations. This is an aviation policy, so a tradesman, insuring a drone along with his tools would not be covered for its operation. 

Differences in Operational Authorisations

This is an important point for people engaging drone service providers. 

The EASA Specific Category requires training, a practical flight test and submission of Operations Manual and accompanying documentation to the IAA. 

The basic Operational Authorisation is called a PDRA, a Pre-Defined Risk Assessment, and this has significant limitations when it comes to controlled ground area and operating over uninvolved people. This is a significant challenge for many operators to comply with. 

Take a construction site, for example; even if all the people inside the site are briefed and become “involved”, once the drone leaves the confines of the site, which pretty much has to capture the boundaries and perimeter of the site, anyone out there is uninvolved, and the operation becomes illegal. Surrounding roads, houses, and parks all have to be considered as part of the “Operational Volume” and since it’s not practical to involve people in these areas, the operator is in breach of the regulations. 

What is a SORA and why did we get one?

The SORA, or Specific Operations Risk Assessment, allows us to mitigate the risks of operations, such as the example above, and through our approved procedures, we can fly where PDRA Operational Authorisation holders cannot. 

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