Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operations in Turkey
The increasing tendency towards the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAV”), which are commonly referred to as “drones”, for all walks of life as well as the latest news on a private company receiving approval of the Federal Aviation Authority of the USA to use UAVs to deliver packages have sharpened the focus on how to fly those innovative vehicles both safely and legally. It is now more important than ever to have a solid regulatory framework ensuring safe flights and operations without imposing extreme dissuasive precautions that make the use of UAVs impossible.
In this article, we will discover answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the UAV operations in Turkey.
- Is there a legal framework covering UAV operations in Turkey?
The Turkish Civil Aviation Code numbered 2920 and dated 14.10.1983 (the “Code”) is the main instrument governing all aspects of aviation from the recognition of the “state sovereignty principle”, aircraft incidents and investigation process, licensing of commercial air operators and airports, liability, air transportation contracts, tariff of fares to the rights over an aircraft, the registry and administrative authority and aircraft insurance.
Having said that, rules and procedures concerning importation, sale, registration, airworthiness and operations of UAVs are specifically laid down in the Directive on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (the “Directive”) issued by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (the “General Directorate”) of Turkey. This Directive has been amended recently on 12.07.2020.
- What does UAV mean?
The Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept (Doc 985) issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization defines UAV as a pilotless aircraft, in the sense of Article 8 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which is flown without a pilot-in-command on-board and is either remotely and fully controlled from another place (ground, another aircraft, space) or programmed and fully autonomous.
Similarly, according to the Directive, UAV means an aircraft that has the ability to repetitively fly through aerodynamic forces as operated as a component of the UAV System which can hover or be remotely operated by an UAV pilot or autonomously programmed to fly by an UAV pilot without UAV pilot on-board.
- Types of UAVs
According to the Directive, UAVs are classified into four categories according to their maximum take-off weights, as shown below:
a) UAVs that have a maximum take-off weight between 500 g (inclusive) and 4 kg would be considered as UAV0
b) UAVs that have a maximum take-off weight between 4 kg (inclusive) and 25 kg would be considered as UAV1
c) UAVs that have a maximum take-off weight between 25 kg (inclusive) and 150 kg would be considered as UAV2
d) UAVs that have a maximum take-off weight 150 kg (inclusive) and greater than that would be considered as UAV3
The UAVs that weigh less than 500 g fall outside the scope of the Directive and thus are not subject to the obligations imposed by it.
- Do I need to register my UAV?
The UAVs defined under categories UAV0 and UAV 1 above are not being registered but instead electronically recorded by the General Directorate through “Recording System”.
On the other hand, the remotely-controlled UAVs that listed under categories UAV2 and UAV3 above are registered with the aircraft registry by the General Directorate and a registration mark is assigned to those UAVs.
- Do I need to obtain a permit prior to flying my UAV?
Permit to fly in free zones to the UAVs which are classified as UAV0 and UAV1 is given automatically by the General Directorate through the Recording System for the flights conducted for sporting and amateur purposes except the commercial activities.
All the flights to be conducted by the UAVs which are classified as UAV0 and UAV1 in the zones that are subject to special permit, it is required to apply online to the “UVA Flight Permission Request Form” on the official website of the General Directorate ten business days in advance.
As for the flights to be conducted by the UAVs which are classified as UAV0 and UAV1 in the zones that are subject to permit it is required to apply online on the official website of the General Directorate five business days in advance.
On the other hand, for the UAVs which are classified as UAV2 and UAV3, it is required to apply to the General Directorate by submitting the “UVA Flight Permission Request Form” ten business days in advance.
- Do I need insurance as an UAV operator?
Operators/ owners of all types of UAVs and systems will be responsible for the damages caused to third parties.
The UAVs that (i) weigh greater than 25 kg and (ii) perform commercial activities regardless of their weights are required to be insured as required by the Regulation on Third Party Financial Liability Insurance that Turkish and Foreign Civil Aircraft that Fly over Turkish Air Space numbered 25994.