Introduction to Drone Regulations in Malta
In the coming decades, it is believed that the drone industry will be one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide.
Technology that was originally designed for military purposes has quickly evolved with a plethora of commercial applications. Controlling borders; Generating climate data; Aerial photography; Fire prevention; Monitoring crops; Inspection of pipelines, electrical wires or contaminated environments; Delivery of all kinds of products; and/or 3D mapping…are some of the potential uses of these devices.
In order to ensure safe and secure drone operations in Europe, the common European rules on drones, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU)2019/945 and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU)2019/947, were published on 11 June 2019. These rules help to protect the safety and privacy of EU citizens. It also safeguards the free circulation of drones and ensures that a level playing field is maintained within the European Union.
This article provides a summary of the basic legislation applicable to drone operations in Malta. Where questions have a N/A answer this means that there is no specific Maltese legislation addressing this issue.
Note: This article should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information purposes only.
Q1. Are Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) considered as “aircraft” in Malta?
Answer: UAS in excess of 150kg is regulated by Regulation EC 216/2008.
Other UAS are, by inference, considered as aircraft. The only laws that apply to UAS are two articles in the Air Navigation Order.
Art. 90 re Non-Applicability of the ANO to small aircraft: The provisions of this Order, except Article 47, shall not apply to or in relation to other aircraft weighing no more than 20kg without its fuel, provided that an aircraft weighing more than 7kg without its fuel shall be flown not above 400 feet above the surface and in accordance with the permission and any conditions set out by the Director-General.
The exception, Art. 47: A person shall not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.
Q2. Which bodies regulate the remotely-piloted and/or unmanned aircraft operations in Malta, under what basic laws?
Answer: Civil Aviation Directorate – Director-General
For the time being, there are no local drone laws for drones <150kg. So only the provisions in the Air Navigation Order apply. However, permits of drone operations may be issued on a case by case basis by the Director-General for Civil Aviation, either in terms of a Self-Declaration Form to be assessed by the CAD, or in terms of a Single Permit issued by the CAD.
Q3. Is there a distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS” in Malta?
Q4. Is there any distinction between public, leisure and commercial UAS? What regulations are provided for UAS operations in each group?
Q5. Is there a distinction, in terms of regulation, between completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS?
Answer: No. No regulation. Self-Declaration Form mentions only RPAs.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations - Safety
Q6. How are UAS operations regulated in terms of safety?
Answer: The Civil Aviation Directorate (CAD), in the absence of regulation, has adopted and uses with success a risk-based approach on a case by case basis depending on the scope and complexity of the request and, more importantly, on the risk of the proposed operation.
Q7. Is the applicable regulation considering the rule of 1 UAS = 1 pilot?
Answer: No regulation, however, the Self-Declaration form assumes a singular operator.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") Operations - Licensing
Q8. What procedures are there to obtain licenses or the rights to operate UAS?
Answer: Submission of a Self-Declaration Form, which if successful, would be valid for 6 months.
Alternatively, if the operating conditions or operational requirements in the self-declaration need to be exceeded then a one-off permit may be issued on a case by case basis by the Director-General for Civil Aviation. The Civil Aviation Directorate requires that every operator who requests such a permit conducts a risk assessment.
Q9. Is there any kind of taxes or fees regarding the licensing procedure?
Q 10. Is a Certificate of Airworthiness mandatory to operate a UAS?
Q11. Is access to the market for the provision of UAS operation services regulated and, if so, how?
Q12. What requirements apply in the areas of financial strength and nationality of ownership regarding control of UAS?
Q13. Is drone transport permitted/regulated in Malta?
Answer: By exclusion: RPAs shall not be flown if transporting explosives, pyrotechnic articles, radioactive materials, or other hazardous materials.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") - Operations - Others
Q 14. Is there a specific Data & Privacy Protection regulation applicable to UAS operations?
Answer: Drone operators and pilots are made aware that the collection of images of identifiable individuals, even inadvertently, when using cameras mounted on small drones, may be subject to the Data Protection Act.
Q15. Is there a specific control-link interference regulation applicable to UAS operations?
Q16. Do specific rules regulate UAS manufacturers?
Q17. What requirements must a foreign UAS operator satisfy in order to operate to or from Malta?
Q18. Are fares or pricing of UAS operations regulated and, if so, how?
The Aircraft (“UAS”)
Q19. Must UAS be registered in any particular register?
Answer: The CAD retains a list of permitted RPAs (internal document).
Q20. Who is entitled to be mentioned in the UAS register?
Answer: The list only mentions specifications & the serial number of the RPA and applicant.
Q21. Do requirements or limitations apply to the ownership of a UAS listed on Malta’s register?
Q22. Do specific rules regulate the maintenance of UAS?
Q23. Which are the operational and distance limitations for aerial work with a UAS? Is there any kind of certificate or permission to operate beyond those limitations?
Q24. Are UAS obliged to take off from and/or land in specific facilities?
Q25. Which kind of airspaces are UAS permitted to operate with?
Q26. Which airspaces are restricted for UAS?
Q27. Which zones are UAS operations banned?
Answer: Operational limitations:
Shall give way to manned aircraft;
Shall not be flown within a prohibited area or a restricted area;
Shall not be flown within 1000 meters of an airport;
Shall not be flown at a distance of fewer than 50 meters from a person, vessel, vehicle or structure, not under the direct control of the operator;
Shall not be flown over water unless the following procedures shall be followed:
The Master/Operator to abide by instructions issued by VTS Valletta/VTS Marsaxlokk, marine VHF Ch. 12/14 which may require that the drone is landed back on board or ashore due to traffic/public safety matters;
Master/Operator to contact VTS prior to launching the drone;
Master/Operator to confirm with VTS that drone is airborne; and
Master/Operator to confirm with VTS once drone operations are completed.
Shall not be flown at a distance of 120 meters from sites of operation of police or other organisations with security-related duties, and military drill sites;
Shall not be flown at a distance of 120 meters from an assembly of 12 or more persons not under the control of the operator;
Shall not be flown within 120 meters of or above correctional facilities, military complexes, industrial complexes, power plants, and power generation and distribution facilities;
Shall not be flown within 120 meters of or above diplomatic or consular missions, international organisations, and law enforcement and security agencies and hospitals;
Shall not be flown within 120 meters of or above arterial roads, ports and above nature reserves;
Shall not be flown at a height of more than 60 meters above ground or water;
Shall not be flown if transporting explosives, pyrotechnic articles, radioactive materials, or other hazardous materials;
Shall not be flown beyond direct unaided visual line of sight and not further than 300 meters from point of operation;
Shall not be flown if the RPA has a maximum take-off mass exceeding 25kg;
Shall not be flown over or in the vicinity of an incident/accident site established by the emergency services or the Armed Forces in connection with an accident or extraordinary event unless instructed to do so by the incident commander after consultation with the Director-General;
Shall not be flown from any place unless the RPAs may take off and land without undue hazard to persons, animals or property, and nothing in this regulation shall affect the rights and interests of the owner or other individuals; and
Shall not be flown without valid third-party liability insurance covering the scope and complexity of the drone operation.
I shall not permit the RPA to be operated:
So as to cause a hazard to another RPAs; or
In the vicinity of Aircraft manoeuvring in an aerodrome traffic circuit; or
In a negligent or reckless manner so as to endanger life or to cause damage to persons, animals and/or property of others.
Drone operators must be aware of their responsibilities regarding operations from private land and any requirements to obtain the appropriate permission before operating from a particular site. In particular, they must ensure that they observe the relevant trespass laws and do not unwittingly commit a trespass whilst conducting a flight.
The CAD does not regulate airspace which falls within the confines (highest obstacle on the premises and lateral boundaries) of private property.
Q28. Who provides air traffic control services for the UAS in Malta?
Answer: Malta Air Traffic Services Ltd (MATS) is the Air Navigation Service Provider for Malta, and it falls under the Ministry for Tourism.
Liability and Accidents
Q29. Are there any special rules in respect of loss or damage to cargo?
Q30. Are there any special rules about the liability of UAS operators for surface damage?
Q31. Is there a mandatory accident and incident reporting system and, if so, how does it operate?
Q32. What system and procedures are in place for the investigation of UAS accidents?
Q33. Are UAS operators obliged to have insurance for their operations? If so, what are the main features?
Answer: Currently, applicants for a permit are required to submit a signed insurance document for third party liability covering the scope and complexity of the requested operation for the specific geographical areas/limits of such operation.
Q34. What is insured? The operator, the business or the aircraft?
Financial Support and State Aid
Q35. Are there sector-specific rules regulating direct or indirect financial support to companies by the government or government-controlled agencies or companies (state aid) in the UAS sector? If not, do general state aid rules apply?
Q36. What are the main principles of the stated aid rules applicable to the UAS sector?
Q37. Are there exemptions from the state aid rules or situations in which they do not apply?
Q38. Must clearance from the competition authorities be obtained before state aid may be granted?