Professional operating drone pilots run against too many and too strict restrictions in practice, according to a survey recently conducted by Dronewatch.nl among more than a hundred ROC-light licensees. As a result, the sector causes economic damage and illegal flying is encouraged. Dronewatch therefore argues - during a roundtable discussion on drones that takes place on 8 March in the House of Representatives - for an expansion of the possibilities for drone operators.
Too many limitations
In the Netherlands, over 550 companies are currently working professionally with drones, of which the majority (around 500) fly under the so-called mini-drone regulation. This arrangement concerns the commercial use of drones up to 4 kg. Currently, it’s mainly photographers and video makers who use these mini drones but the number of farmers, companies that carry out inspections, and other sectors that start working with drones is rapidly growing.
However, it appears that the limitations of the ROC-light permit cause problems in practice. Approximately 70% of the respondents regularly run against the maximum flight altitude of 50 meters and maximum flight distance of 100 meters. Also the stipulation that one must maintain at least 50 meters distance from roads and buildings and the ban on flights above industrial areas and port areas, is restricting more than half of the respondents.
Turning customers away or flying illegally?
The limitations of the ROC-light mean that no less than 83% of the respondents have to sell 'no' to a client. Even scarier is the fact that as many as nine out of ten respondents think that the current ROC-light restrictions lead to illegal flights.
According to Wiebe de Jager from Dronewatch, the conclusion which stipulates that the strict regulations put a brake on the sector is not surprising. "Only one in twenty participants say that they can build a financially healthy company on the basis of the ROC-light. Investing in the much more expensive full ROC is not an option for most. Fourfifth even thinks that within The Netherlands a healthy drone sector is not possible with the current regulations. "
In during the upcoming meeting with the Standing Committee for Infrastructure and Water Management of the House of Representatives, Dronewatch will plead to give ROC-light permit holders the opportunity to fly up to 120 meters high in the run-up to European regulations and to abolish the horizontal distance limitation. Dronewatch will also plead for the removal or more flexibility in other restrictions. In addition, Dronewatch wants to see the issuing of drone bans by local authorities and interest groups put to an end.
As far as the recreational use of drones is concerned, Dronewatch is not in favour of imposing new restrictions on flight altitude and distance, since they are barely enforceable and are not in line with the upcoming European regulations. De Jager: "It is much better to invest in information, since most incidents are the result of unfamiliarity with the regulations."
The position paper from Dronewatch containing all recommendations and the results of the research (in Dutch) can be downloaded from their website of the House of Representatives.