certified cargo dronesFirst-step analysis: drone operations and maintenance in Ireland

November 12, 2021by helo-10

Operations and maintenance

One drone, one pilot

Does the ‘one drone, one pilot’ rule apply in your jurisdiction?

Operations in the open category must be conducted in a visual line of sight (VLOS) at all times except when the drone is being flown in ‘follow-me mode’ or when using an unmanned aircraft observer. While operating in VLOS, the remote pilot must be able to maintain continuous unaided visual contact with the unmanned aircraft to avoid collisions with other aircraft, people and obstacles. An unmanned aircraft observer may assist the remote pilot in keeping the drone in VLOS.

While not expressly stated, the above suggests that there should only be one pilot for each drone, with the assistance of an observer in some instances.


Do specific rules regulate the maintenance of drones?

Unmanned aircraft operators must maintain specific category drones in a safe condition in accordance with the manufacturer’s user manual and keep an up-to-date record of any maintenance activities conducted on the drone for a minimum of three years. The maintenance of unmanned aircraft must be certified if the drone meets any of the following four conditions:

  • it is 3 metres or more in dimension and is designed to be operated over assemblies of people;
  • it is designed for transporting people;
  • it is designed for the purposes of transporting dangerous goods and requires a high level of robustness to mitigate risks to third parties in case of accident; and
  • it is intended to be used in the specific category of operations, and the operational authorisation notes that it must be certified.

Basic operational rules and restrictions

What rules and restrictions apply to flights performed in ‘visual line of sight’ (VLOS) and ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS)? Is there a distinction in this regard?

There are four general rules that apply:

  1. during flight, the unmanned aircraft must be maintained within 120 metres from the closest point of the surface of the earth, which can be adjusted in accordance with the applicable geographical terrain;
  2. when flying an unmanned aircraft 50 metres from an artificial obstacle that is higher than 105 metres, the unmanned aircraft may fly 15 metres above the height of the obstacle at the request of the entity responsible for the obstacle;
  3. the maximum height of the operation must not exceed 30 metres above the maximum height allowed in (1) and (2); and
  4. during flight, the unmanned aircraft must not carry dangerous goods.


There is no distinction in those general rules between operations performed in VLOS and BVLOS.

While operating in a VLOS, the remote pilot must be able to maintain continuous unaided visual contact with the unmanned aircraft. BVLOS operations are those that are not conducted in VLOS.

Remote pilots must keep unmanned aircraft in VLOS when operating in the open category to avoid any risk of collision with any manned aircraft, except when flying in follow-me mode or when using an unmanned aircraft observer. The operation should be discontinued if it poses a risk to other aircraft, people, animals, environment or property.

What rules and restrictions apply to critical and non-critical operations? Is there a distinction in this regard?

There is no distinction; however, when operating in the open and specific categories at night, remote pilots must ensure that the green flashing light on the unmanned aircraft is activated for visibility purposes.

Transport operations

Is air transport via drone (eg, cargo and mail) regulated in your jurisdiction? If so, what requirements, limitations and restrictions apply?

No, air transport via drone is not specifically regulated in Ireland, although Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 (Regulation 2019/947) does restrict drones within the open category from carrying dangerous goods or dropping material from a height. As such, any drones looking to carry materials will likely require authorisation under the specific or certified category. For example, Manna Aero – an Irish drone delivery operator – had to obtain a light UAS operator certificate (LUC) from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to trial its drone delivery services.

Do any specific provisions governing consumer protection and tracking systems apply with respect to cargo and delivery operations via drone?

No, air transport via drone is not specifically regulated in Ireland.

Insurance requirements

What insurance requirements apply to the operation of drones?

Regulation (EC) No. 785/2004 provides that all unmanned aircraft must be insured for third-party risks, except those with a maximum take-off weight of less than 20kg and that are being used for sporting or recreational purposes.

Safety requirements

What safety requirements apply to the operation of drones?

Regulation 2019/947 opts for a risk-based approach in many aspects, including safety. Drone operators are required to conduct risk analyses prior to an operation during which they must propose a target level of safety, equivalent to the safety levels in manned aviation, in light of the specific characteristics of the operation. Drone operators must also identify the possible mitigation measures necessary to meet the proposed target level of safety for the operation, taking a number of factors into account, and must determine the robustness of the proposed mitigation measures.

In the specific category, drone operators are required to declare their commitment to comply with the mitigation measures required for the safety of the operation.

Drone operator organisations who apply for a LUC are required to establish, implement and maintain a safety management system corresponding to the size of the organisation or the nature and complexity of its activities. 

A new concept of standard scenario has been introduced, which allows drone operators to declare that the safety risk assessment has already been conducted by the European Aviation Safety Agency or the IAA.

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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