Hungary: The new legal regulation of drones

Unmanned Aircraft
Unmanned aircraft is a new component of the global aviation system. A new EU-Regulation on the common rules of civil aviation therefore aims on establishing rules for the use of unmanned aircraft. This Regulation, which entered into force last year, is directly applicable in all Member States. According to the Regulation, unmanned aircraft means any aircraft operating or designed to operate autonomously or to be piloted remotely without a pilot being present on board.

What is the “problem” with drones?
Drones are technically designed for a variety of purposes. Subsequent military, civilian and business purposes have emerged. Only a few years ago, recreational drones became available to the public. An important feature of drones is that they can be equipped with devices which may record personal information. Such type of aviation makes it possible to observe not only persons but also objects and processes, all this even undetected. The “flying eye in the sky” has obvious privacy implications. The EU-Regulation strengthens controls on the use of drones to uphold the right of privacy of individuals.

Aims of the new EU-Regulation
In designing the Regulation, the core principles of necessity and proportionality were in focus. It is essential to identify the drone, its operator and the contact information of the operator. The flight path must be defined in advance in real-time by specifying the coordinates and time of flight; furthermore, it must be reconstructable at any time later. Unmanned aircraft uses the very same airspace as usual aircrafts. The Regulation therefore integrates the requirements for unmanned aircraft into the rules of civil aviation. Regulation at EU level was necessary since the manufacture, distribution and the use of drones in many cases extends beyond the borders of the Member States. Local authorities must carry out prior authorisation and risk assessment every time a drone takes off.

Hungarian legal regulations in effect
Beyond the Regulation, which has – as mentioned – direct effect in Hungary, a Government Decree from 1998 on the use of the Hungarian airspace also applies to the use of drones. According to the Decree, the operation of an unmanned aircraft is permitted only on a case-by-case basis. The requests for airspace use must be sent to the State Aviation Department of the Hungarian Ministry of Defence. After obtaining an airspace license, any activity must be notified to the Ministry of Innovation and Technology. Sports and private users are relieved from this notification requirement, but are still subject to the airspace use permit.

What's next?
Technology continues to develop unstoppably, so regulations must follow suit. The European Commission will soon publish guidelines and so-called "standard scenarios" for drone operations. It will help drone operators to comply with the adopted rules. The European Commission is developing an institutional, regulatory and architectural framework for drone services, which aim to enable complex drone operations with a high degree of automation. The EU will now have the most advanced rules worldwide. This will pave the way for safe, secure and green drone flights.

Author: Márk Mészáros