Rules & Regulations
Rules & Regulations
What is and what is not possible in the use of drones in the Netherlands is still quite unclear. Because of it being a new technology, a lot of legislators are not yet prepared this. However, there are certain laws applicable to the use of drones in the Netherlands. The laws there are make a difference between personal use of drones and the commercial use of drones. The commercial use of light unmanned aircrafts is not allowed without an exemption. This exemption can be applied for.
The exemption deals with light unmanned aircrafts up to 150 kilograms and a maximum speed of 126.64 kilometers per hour. Moreover, there are two types of exemptions, a company exemption and a project exemption. The company exemption allows that company to use drones for a maximum of 1 year, after which a new exemption is needed. The project exemption only allows the use of drones during a single project. Such a company exemption is only granted after the earlier succesful application of a number of project exemptions.
In the exemption it is stated that the unmanned aircraft can only be used in uncontrolled airspace and it should stay in the visual line of sight of the person controlling the aircraft and the observer. Flights should always be performed by a team of at least two people. The airspace in which the aircraft can fly is further restricted to a maximum height of 120 meters above ground level, not further than 500 meters from the captain, and at least 150 meters away from people and buildings. Flights should also take place within the visual flight rules in the daylight period.
Problems for drone deliveries
There are two major problems for drone deliveries within this legislation: the need for a flight team for every unmanned aircraft, and the restricted airspace they can fly in. The drones that will be used for deliveries will be autonomous. They will not need a team to be able to fly and drop off packages. If every drone has to have a team of two people to be allowed to fly, the company using these drones should hire a lot of people, which costs a lot of money. The restricted airspace makes the delivery of packages with drones impossible. The drones will always have to fly out of the indicated range to be able to deliver their packages.
As becomes clear from the problems the current rules and regulations impose on drone deliveries, some changes will have to be made to these rules and regulations. For a company like Amazon, or Bol.com in the Netherlands it is of major importance that the use of autonomous drones is legalised. Such a legalisation of the autonomy for drones will not have to apply to all sorts of drones, but it will have to apply to the somewhat smaller drones that will be used in package deliveries. Flying within built-up areas will have to be legalised too. To get the packages to the pick-up point at a supermarket in the city, the drone will have to fly in built-up areas. Another change that is not strictly necessary, but will improve the delivery system for consumers and company is the legalisation of flights in the dark. Drones are now only allowed to operate in the daylight, which is an obvious consequence of the need of visual contact of the captain with the drone. When drones are allowed to fly autonomously and there is no captain involved anymore, it seems reasonable that these vehicles will be allowed to fly in the dark as well.
Drones as a risk to public safety
Just like other aircrafts do, drones are a potential threat to humans, animals or objects through direct impact or through their payload. In addition to the direct damage, an impact may lead to explosions or fire, resulting in more damage. Moreover, the rapidly moving parts drones have can cause substantial physical and mental trauma.
Incidents with drones can have many causes. They may be used to cause harm deliberately by emloying them on a kamikaze mission or dropping their payload. In case of drone deliveries it will not be the owner of the drones that intends to do harm, but drones can be hijacked just like manned vehicles can. Drones do also suffer component failure, which can have serious consequences while suffered in mid-air. Physically and electronically congested airspace can also cause harm. The risk of collisions increases and signal interference becomes a reasonable threat.
Natural controls There are factors keeping the safety risks of drones in check. In manned aircrafts, physical danger to the pilot acts as natural control, this is however not the case in an unmanned drone. Economic considerations are an effective form of natural control. When drones keep crashing through component failure, a company will invest in the improvement of drones, instead of keeping on buying new ones. Better drones will crash less often, and therfore they will improve safety. Reputational controls do have some impact on large organisations, particularly consumer-facing organisations. Irresponsible drone usage can harm their reputation and therefore cost them money. These natural controls, however, are not likely to be sufficient to guarantee public safety concerning drones. Regulation and clear communication and enforcement of this regulation is necessary to ensure public safety. But, this regulation should still enable the use of drones for package delivery.