Belgocontrol organizes safe drone flights

The number of drone-related incidents is on the rise each year. Belgocontrol and the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) are taking measures to provide information for drone owners and to avoid incidents in the future.

In 2015, 6 drone-related incidents took place. The following year, in 2016, that number reached 11 and for 2017, with still a few months to go, we are already at 14. An incident can range from a simple drone sighting to a near-collision with an aircraft. On 16 October three about 2 meter wide drones were spotted in the airspace close to Liège airport. Air traffic control even had to take measures for normal air traffic to avoid that zone.

Where, when and for which purposes the various drone categories can be used in Belgium and which conditions the owners have to comply with, is laid down by Royal Decree since 2016. Belgocontrol believes it is high time to implement that legal framework for drone use in the (lower) Belgian airspace in practice. To that end, Belgocontrol shall take a number of measures with the BCAA.

Information and mobile app

In a first phase both authorities wish to provide information to drone owners, e.g. on where they can or cannot fly. On the basis of that information, which will be visualized by using clearly laid out maps, drone pilots can prepare their flight and apply for the required authorizations.

They will be able to do that via a digital platform that was created for that very purpose and that will collect all necessary data. Drone owners will be able to not only use the publicly accessible website, but also a mobile app, which will enable them to assess whether their flight profile complies with the applicable rules.

Belgocontrol and the BCAA will further develop the platform with an external partner. The website and the platform-based app should be available to users by the first quarter of 2018. Belgocontrol will from then onwards be managing both the website and the app.

Johan Decuyper, Belgocontrol CEO: “We support the use of drones, but it is our mission to guarantee the safety of all air traffic. The platform and applications are a first step in the process of managing drone air traffic. Belgocontrol and the BCCA will decide together on possible further steps in the future.”

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About skeyes

skeyes ensures the safety and efficiency of air traffic in Belgium 24/7. The skeyes air traffic controllers manage over 3,000 aircraft every day, which makes up over a million flight movements per year. The autonomous public company is active at the heart of Europe, in one of the busiest and most complex sections of airspace of the continent. skeyes is active at Brussels Airport and at the airports of Antwerp, Charleroi, Kortrijk, Liège and Ostend. Thanks to its CANAC 2 control centre skeyes manages the flight movements above Belgium and a part of Luxembourg up to an altitude of 7,500 metres (*). The company relies on its nearly 900 experienced staff members who are at the service of their customers: airline companies, airports, the aviation sector and the authorities. skeyes also develops innovating services regarding drones and contributes to a sustainable future of the aviation sector, among other things with respect to the environment.

skeyes is a member of FABEC, a joint airspace block (Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland) with the aim of improving air navigation efficiency in the heart of Europe in the framework of the Single European Sky.

(*) The upper airspace of the Benelux countries and North West Germany is managed jointly with the EUROCONTROL centre in Maastricht. 


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