Current Affairs
Over 1,000 persons have applied for a licence to fly a drone

Transport Malta has issued the first licences to operator of drones following applications for a licence made by 1,000 persons as a licence is now legally obligatory. There are two categories but each drone has to be registered with the Authority and has to be covered by assurance.

This follows after on 1st January, Malta became obliged to follow new regulations by the EU Aviation Agency for this sector to be regulated.

A specialist in the aviation sector, Analiza Abdilla, explained there are two licence categories, one in the advanced category and the other, ordinary. These require online training via the Authority’s site, followed by an examination.

In addition to an operation licence, each drone has to be registered with Transport Malta and the registration number displayed on the drone. Dr Abdilla said Transport Malta enforcement officials are carrying out inspections and may order an operator to ground the drone so as to check it details and ensure their regularity. In cases of irregularity, the consequences will involve fines of thousands of euro as well as Court criminal proceedings.

Flying a drone also requires an insurance policy. A Transport Malta official said there is currently a problem in this because such insurance licences are issued by a company based in Britain and are therefore pending because of Brexit. Dr Abdilla said that currently, drone owners are being requested to declare their intention to have an insurance policy when thee continue to be issued.

Dr Abdilla said that before each flight the operator has to apply online with Transport Malta and declare whether the drone flight is for commercial purposes or whether recreational purposes. The operator also has to specify the intended date of the flight, the time and the locality it will fly over.

A map of Malta will show various restricted zones and if a request is for a flight over a restricted zone, the request will be evaluated.  When a flight is over private residences, the operator has to have the permission of residence owners. Television Malta requested further analysis of this because of the small expanse of the country.

If a drone is flown, it cannot be over private property but has to be flown over road. There is also an issue of data protection involved. Over and above EASA, many drones contain a camera but persons have a right to the protection of their privacy.

There are also zones where drone flights are prohibited.

These include the Kordin Correctional Facility, hospitals and in particular for security, the airport, as well as some embassies because of security, and nature reserves.

Drones cannot be flown over crowds or mass activities such as festive celebrations and concerts. Dr Abdilla said if an application for this is made, the drone flight will have to be a certain distance away from the crowd.