In view of the recurring incidents with drones, experts are calling for the police, regulatory agencies and the judiciary to take action in the event of violations of the law. “Currently, the main risk in this area is the inadequate enforcement of existing laws and regulations,” says the head of training and testing in the UAV umbrella organization for unmanned aviation, Uwe Nortmann, in a survey by the German press agency.
Unauthorized flying over, illegal photography and violations of the permit requirement
In many areas, drones are a useful addition to human work – for example in agriculture, in crafts and in rescue services. The acceptance in the population can only increase if violations are punished. Rapid implementation and application of EU requirements at national level is important in order to ensure a safe, fair and orderly coexistence of manned and unmanned aviation, says Claudia Nehring from the Association of Unmanned Aviation (VUL).
In the past two years, according to the State Police Department of Thuringia, 18 administrative offenses in connection with drone flights have been registered in the Free State. The main focus was on unauthorized flying over foreign properties, illegal photography and violations of the license requirement to drive a drone. The responsible Federal Aviation Office does not have any figures on drones approved in Thuringia. Around 290,000 operators are currently registered in Germany.
Since last year, all owners of a drone with a take-off weight of over 250 grams or a camera for taking pictures have been obliged to submit a certificate of competence, also known colloquially as a drone driver’s license. “In principle, the point is that drone pilots have at least a rough knowledge of what is allowed and what is forbidden,” explains Nortmann. “This test is very simple, but it serves the purpose.”
Drones pose very tangible dangers for air traffic. Because of their small size, the unmanned aerial vehicles are mostly invisible on radars. All reports were therefore based on observations by pilots or airport staff, explained Stefan Jaekel from the German Air Traffic Control (DFS). Accordingly, two drones have been spotted at Erfurt-Weimar Airport in recent years. In both cases, the subsequent search by the police was unsuccessful, but there was no restriction on air traffic.
Who bears the costs for special drone detection systems?
In Germany, however, the number of incidents has increased significantly – from 14 reports in the area of German air traffic control alone in 2015 to 125 in 2019. According to this, Frankfurt am Main Airport is by far the most affected Incidents reported.
To get the problem under control, air traffic control is currently testing special drone detection systems. On the instructions of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, such systems are to be used in future at the 16 German international airports. Unmanned flying objects are to be recorded, among other things, at a distance of 18 kilometers along the approach and departure routes of the aircraft. According to the German air traffic control, it is mainly unclear who will bear the costs for the very complex systems.
Penalties of up to 50,000 euros
From 2023, all drones with a CE mark must include an information sheet in the scope of delivery that informs buyers about the legal situation. At this point in time, the sale of drones without a CE mark should also be prohibited. So far, sellers and manufacturers have not been obliged to inform customers about the legal framework. In addition, the demand for voluntary drone courses is increasing.
In addition to private individuals, companies and authorities such as the Red Cross and the Technical Relief Organization took advantage of this offer. In theory, anyone who lets a drone climb without a driver’s license risks fines of up to 50,000 euros – because of inadequate controls, the risk of being caught is so far low, according to Nortmann. A tougher crackdown on the part of the police and the judiciary is therefore desirable.