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New drone laws approved by Council of Ministers

Published on 03/01/2019

Portugal has approved new ‘drone laws’ to regulate the use of these potentially lethal machines.

The Council of Ministers met on Thursday and passed the legislation, noting that the equipment is easily purchased by members of the public and there are, “potential risks.”

New operating rules now cover the use of drones in the nation’s skies, with the Council stating that, “in view of the easy access to this type of equipment and the risk potential associated with it, it was necessary to create an easy-to-understand regulatory framework that would determine the rules of operation in the public space, without inhibiting the potential development of economic activities, innovation and attraction of investment.”

In recent weeks the use of drones has been spread across the media after some of these devices led to the closure of Gatwick airport, with ‘yellow jacket’ organisers in Portugal calling for the use of drones to disrupt air traffic at Portugal’s airports.

The communiqué from the Council of Ministers reads that, “in addition to defining clear rules of operation, this bill establishes the adoption of preventive mechanisms that mitigate the risk associated with the use of the equipment, as well as the capacity of entities to ensure effective control where drone operations pose a threat to public safety or to protected natural heritage.”

Portugal’s civil aviation authority reported 43 drone incidents between January and September 2018, 60% of which were in the busy summer season.

In 2017, the authority registered 37 drone incidents – 36 reported by civil aircraft and one by a military aircraft. 17 cases were filed and nine complaints rest with the Public Prosecution Service.

In 2013 and 2014, the aviation regulator registered zero drone incidents, while in 2015, it received reports of five events, a number that more than tripled to 17 in 2016.

The ANAC regulations, in force since January 13, 2017, prohibit the flight of drones above 120 metres and in the approach and take-off areas of all airports.

On July 28 last year, a decree-law came into force that made it mandatory to register drones weighing over 250 grams, mandatory to have civil liability insurance for ‘drones’ above 900 grams and sanctions for operators who violate these obligations.

The 2018 law establishes fines of between €300 and €7,500 and the seizure of the offending devices.