banner-desktop banner-mobile

The Latest News From the IAA

Operating Drones Safely: Follow the Rules!

19 Dec 2014

Friday, 19th December 2014: Today the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) published further information on the use of drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in Irish airspace.

Donal Handley, IAA Head of Corporate Affairs said: ‘There has been a significant increase in the availability of drones or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) in Ireland in recent times. Safety is our number one priority and we want to highlight that there are rules in place to help ensure the safe operation of this evolving aviation technology. Some people may be lucky enough to receive a RPAS as a gift over Christmas and they need to be aware that they must operate their RPAS in a safe and responsible manner, and in full compliance with the regulations’.

Essentially, a RPAS is an unmanned aircraft which is controlled remotely by the pilot on the ground.  If you are using your RPAS purely for recreational purposes, you must follow the same rules that are required for the operation of model aircraft. However, if you are using your RPAS for any other purpose, including for commercial, government or research, you must have received an ‘aerial works permission’ as well as a ‘permission to operate an RPAS in Irish airspace’ from the IAA.

Regardless of whether RPAS are to be used for commercial or for recreational purposes, like all other aircraft, users must obey the ‘Rules of the Air’, in the same way that motorists must obey the ‘Rules of the Road’. For RPAS operations, the primary rules  include the following:

Where & When can I operate my RPAS?

  1. RPAS may only be used for operations over unpopulated areas up to a maximum of 400 feet above ground level (120 metres).
  2. RPAS may only be operated in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) only, which means:
  • No night flying,
  • No flying in or through cloud or fog, and
  • You should be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (rather than through its point-of-view camera) at all times.

Distance from the RPAS pilot

  • The aircraft shall not be operated beyond Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and not further than 500 metres from the point of operation;
  • RPAS shall not be operated within 150 metres of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the aircraft operator; during take-off and landing, the aircraft must not be flown within 50 metres of any person, unless that person is under the control of the aircraft operator.

Where may I NOT operate my RPAS? (except with the permission of IAA Flight Operations and permission from Air Traffic Control):

  • Over built up or urban areas;
  • Over  an assembly of people on the ground nor closer than 150 metres laterally from such an assembly;
  • Within controlled, segregated  or restricted airspace;
  • Within the confines of a congested area, such as a city, town or village;
  • Over populous areas, such as other people's back gardens, public parks or beaches, or sports grounds where there is a game in progress;
  • Within an aerodrome traffic zone or closer than 8 kilometres (5 nautical miles) from an aerodrome boundary, whichever is the greater distance; and
  • Within 2 kilometres from an aircraft in flight.

The above is not an exhaustive and prospective users of RPAS should familiarise themselves fully with the relevant regulations.

If you intend to use an RPAS for commercial purposes, you must have a third party liability insurance policy covering the operation of the system which is acceptable to the IAA. Although this does not apply for recreational RPAS users, the IAA would strongly encourage such users should also secure third party liability insurance.

Donal Handley said, ‘Ireland is quite advanced in terms of RPAS legislation for civil use. Ultimately, we want to support the growth of this new part of the civil aviation industry but at the same time we must ensure that people operate these devices in a safe and responsible way. These are not simply toys and everyone using an RPAS needs to mindful of the Rules of the Air’.

For further information please go to and see the IAA’s detailed Q&A sheet.




Tony Lane,

Communications Executive,

Irish Aviation Authority,

Tel: 086 791 1864