Strict rules on drones in Italy

New Italian regulations on drones open questions on whether such technology has been over-regulated or rules were necessary for its proper exploitation.

This is a blog post drafted with my colleague Laura Borelli. I have already discussed about the privacy related obligations and the legal risks of drones in this blog post, but this article covers the matter from a different angle.

The evolution of their usage

In the years drones have turned from a futuristic gadget you could see in science fictions to a useful device which in the near future could change the way a vast number of industries, from energy to entertainment, to e-commerce etc.. Besides their charming features, they pose significant challenges to the regulatory systems which shall try to create a balance between different interests such as citizens safety and protection of personal data as well as operators’ needs and effective opportunities that may create for businesses.

The Italian new regulations on drones

The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile, “ENAC”) has now issued regulations to address such matters providing different rules for drones depending on their weight, the criticality of the operations to be performed and the direct visibility of the machine during the flight.

Below are the main obligations introduced by the regulations: 

Pilot Certification and Usage of Drones

The regulations introduce two different type of qualifications for pilots depending on the type of drone and the operation to be carried out. Pilots will have to obtain a different certification and the usage of drones will be subject to different restrictions depending on their weight and the conditions in which they are used e.g. the types of areas that are overflown, whether there is visual contact with the pilot, the height and the distance from the pilot.

Additionally, considerable documents shall be arranged to record the drones’ usage and specific safety measures have to be put in place to prevent damages to third parties. And such documents might be required also to comply with applicable health and safety regulations.

But given that these are new regulations, there are a number of open questions on the requirements to be met and how to obtain the necessary authorizations.

Flight over urban centers

The new regulations allow pilots to fly drones also over urban areas provided that they avoid the overflight of group of people, such as demonstrations, sport events “and in any case on areas where there are unusual concentrations of people“. 

Simplified provisions for smaller drones

Specific rules are set for drones weighting no more than 2 kg. All the operations carried out with such devices are considered not critical in all operational scenarios, provided that “their design and construction techniques present harmlessness features“.

Drones for amateurs

With regards to amateurs, the regulations provide that shall fly solely in non-populated and properly selected areas. While such rules would be justified by clear safety reasons, doubts arise with regard to the provision of the regulations which bans the installation of devices allowing the performance of “specialized operations” that might prevent the most common usage of drones by amateurs.

Are these regulations better?

The main concern arisen following the adoption of such new regulations is that the potential exploitation of drones in some fields might be restricted. Lighter regulations might have better accommodated the technological development in the field.


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