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Navigating Belgium's Drone Regulations: A Step-by-Step Guide for Safe and Legal Flight

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

*This article is an update version from the Belgian Drone Federation website translated in English along with updated external links (notes that some external links are only available in Dutch or French unfortunately).



DRONE LEGAL


Since 31 December 2020 the new European regulation is in force in all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Thanks to this harmonisation, any UAS operator or remote pilot who has the necessary certificates in his own country can also fly in these other countries.


This is why it is important to understand each other's responsibilities:


  • EASA: stands for European Union Aviation Safety Agency and imposes the new European legislation on all member states.

  • DGTA: stands for Directorate General for Air Transport and follows the European legislation for Belgium. Airspace is a federal competence and the Minister of Mobility is responsible for it.

Drone flights are divided into 3 categories (Open, Specific and Certified) depending on the risk of the operation for people and property on the ground and for safety in the airspace.


OPEN


Operations in this category are said to be low risk,

  • only in authorized airspace (see geographical areas)

  • max 120 m high

  • VLOS (Visual Line of Sight), the drone must always remain in sight of the pilot

  • only with a UAS < 25 kg take-off weight.

There are 3 subcategories,

  • Open A1: flying over people (but not over a gathering of people or a crowd)

  • Open A2: flying close to people, >30 m (or 5 m in slow mode)

  • Open A3: away from populated areas (>150 m)

Restrictions and obligations are imposed on these categories with regard to permitted operations, age, training and operator registration while taking into account the UAS used. Depending on their weight, the drones receive a European Cx label (C0, C1, C2, C3 or C4). There are currently no approved drones and the transitional measures must therefore be observed. You can find an overview of the categories here. Information about training/categories.


Flight operations in the OPEN category are possible without a licence, but in most cases you have to register as an operator and you have to check whether there are additional obligations or restrictions if the flight takes place in a certain geographical area



SPECIFIC (HIGH RISK FLIGHTS)


If any of the rules of the Open category cannot be met, you automatically fall into the Specific category. In order to fly in this category, a risk analysis must be carried out. There are 2 possibilities:

  • Standard Scenario: Standard scenarios are developed by the government for the type of flight operations that occur frequently.

  • SORA: If there is no standard scenario that fits the type of risk of your flight, you have to perform a SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment)

Standard Scenario

The European Regulation (EU) 2019/947 has established two standard scenarios that come into effect from 2/12/21:

  • STS-01 - VLOS over a controlled ground surface in a populated environment;

  • STS-02 - BVLOS over a controlled ground surface in a sparsely populated environment with observers present.

In anticipation of these European standard scenarios, Belgium, as a European leader, has published a Belgian standard scenario in the RD of 31/12/2020, namely BE-STS-01 applicable in Belgian airspace until the entry into force of the European standard scenarios. If your flight meets all the conditions of this standard scenario, you can submit an operation declaration to the DGTA. With this declaration, you declare, as an operator, that you comply with all the risk mitigation measures of the scenario concerned and you accept the responsibilities.


SORA

The SORA is required for flights that do not correspond to the standard scenario, an authorization must be requested.

For this purpose you must write a CONOPS and document the specific risk assessment of the associated operations via a SORA.

In the SORA, you must describe, among other things, how you achieve the operational safety objectives (OSO) with the associated risk mitigation measures. You should also prepare an operational manual (OMS).

To prepare all this you can follow a SORA qualification training - see "training" section


Experience is important to assess the pilot's competence in operational risk assessment. (This can be supported by a class 2 certificate or a class 1 licence under the former Belgian legislation or training in a training entity designated by the DGTA).


In this category, you should also always check the conditions to be respected according to the area where the flight takes place.



CERTIFIED

If the flight operations involve risks higher than those indicated in the previously explained categories, the flight operation falls into the CERTIFIED category. The conditions of operation in this CERTIFIED category have not yet been published. For the FAQ, please refer to the DGTA website



WHAT'S AUTHORIZED AND WHAT'S NOT:





LEGAL TEXTS


The complete legal texts can be consulted on the EASA website


and the DGTA website for the application in Belgium Drones | FOD Mobiliteit


STEPS


Steps to follow to fly a drone

For all information you can contact the DGTA on 02/277.43.08 (FR, only on Tuesday and Thursday from 8h30 to 12h or by mail DGTA: uas@mobilit.fgov.be.)



GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS


Flying in certain geographical areas is subject to specific conditions, e.g. with regard to certain equipment, categories of flight operations, flight reports and/or permission to fly.

You can consult the areas and their specificities via Droneguide in DGTA



TRAINING


The training courses are classified according to the European legislation and according to the flight risk classification: OPEN, SPECIFIC and CERTIFIED. The certificates obtained are valid in all the member states of the European Union.


Conditions for OPEN A1, A2, A3 categories

  • Read the UAS user manual.

  • Pass the theory test of the relevant subcategory - except UAS < 250 g (C0 or "home-made")

  • OPEN A1 /A3 :

    • free online theory training

    • online theory test

    • The certificate is valid for 5 years.

  • OPEN A2 :

    • be able to issue a certificate of achievement Open A1/A3

    • + additional "written" theory test (at DGTA in Brussels)

    • follow a practical training (This may be possible in self-training depending on the operating conditions of the A3 subcategory, at least 150 m from populated areas)

  • For UAS flights at model airfields during club activities, no training is required for members - club requirements must be met.


Conditions for SPECIFIC Category

  • The skills required for flights in this category depend on :

    • the standard scenario in which the flight takes place

    • or the operational risk assessment of the flight.

  • Training and assessment of competency is carried out within :

    • Either recognised entities (practical training only for standard scenarios)

    • Designated Entities (theoretical and practical training for operating licences) zie voor meer info


Conditions for the CERTIFIED category


  • The competences required for this category have not yet been defined.

For more information, please contact the Designated Entities below and the website of the Directorate General of Air Transport



CIRCULARS



THE RIGHT TO THE IMAGE


The "right to an image" offers everyone the possibility to enforce their right to privacy. Therefore, taking a photo/film and using it always requires permission. The fact that a person consents to be photographed or filmed does not necessarily constitute consent to its publication or broadcast. These two permissions are independent of each other and must be requested separately. A written agreement should be drawn up. It is increasingly accepted that a minor who is capable of making his or her own decisions can give consent.


An exception is images taken in the public space. When persons appear as subordinate elements in a photo/video taken in a public place, permission for further use is in principle not required. The same principle also applies to images of "crowds" that do not specifically identify a person.


In principle, public persons (such as politicians, sports stars, artists, etc.) do not need to give their prior consent. In this case, the right to information applies, provided that certain conditions are met. The image of a public person must be used for information purposes (i.e. not for commercial purposes) and must not infringe the right to privacy. Furthermore, some people will only be considered public persons on the occasion of a certain event (e.g. in case of a disaster or crime). Their image must therefore be linked to that event and after a certain time the person concerned has the right to be forgotten.


We refer you to the Data Protection Authority for more information.



RGPD - LAW OF 30 JULY 2018


The drone a camera like no other...


It is regularly pointed out that drones can invade privacy. Even in the context of military or police missions, it raises concerns among citizens.


As a federation, we would like to draw attention to the basis of privacy and other legal elements that, depending on the use, may overlap with the principle of privacy. The matter is complex and different legal frameworks may apply depending on the use.


On 5 September 2018, the RGPD law (law on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data) was published. This will permanently abolish the 1992 Privacy Act, but most of the principles remain unchanged.


In principle, the law only applies to images (photos and films) of people, not to movable or immovable property. However, where it is possible to easily identify a person from photographs of property, these photographs become personal data. The application of the law is therefore best analyzed on a case-by-case basis.


If personal data is used for journalistic purposes, the law applies only to a limited extent. These exceptions include the right to democratic control that journalists can exercise in the name of press freedom. For more information on the right to image (source: Home page | Data Protection Authority)



THE CAMERA ACT


The camera law applies to surveillance cameras, i.e. cameras installed and used for the surveillance of buildings, i.e. to ensure the security of the premises.


Surveillance cameras must be used for :

  • the prevention, recording and detection of criminal offences against persons or property.

  • the prevention, recording and detection of irregularities within the meaning of Article 135 of the new municipal law, the monitoring of compliance with municipal regulations or the maintenance of public order.

We are dealing here with the drone as a mobile surveillance camera, a moving camera that collects images and films from different locations or positions.


The camera law also distinguishes between types of locations.


In enclosed areas, mobile surveillance cameras are allowed in three cases:

  • use by security guards under private security law, e.g. at airports, international railway stations, nuclear sites, etc.

  • use by security guards in a place (or parts of it) where no one is supposed to be present, e.g. in a shop outside opening hours, a shopping centre at night, empty parts of an industrial estate,...

  • use by a natural person, for personal and domestic purposes, in a closed place not accessible to the public. For example: a property owner who wishes to monitor a large private property with mobile surveillance cameras that can move around the entire surface of the property.

In open areas, the use of mobile surveillance cameras is extremely restricted and reserved for municipal authorities and only to be used as ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) - surveillance cameras (ANPR cameras mounted on cars or motorbikes).


Warning: this rule does not exempt from the principles of purpose and proportionality (no mobile surveillance camera is used if it is more intrusive than a fixed camera, to achieve the same objectives) and of course not from the drone regulation.


For all details concerning the use of mobile surveillance cameras, we refer to the specific legislation.



POLICE LAW.


The use of mobile cameras (drones) by the police is regulated by the "Police Act".



MORE INFO AND SOURCES




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