The flying of drones or other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) near to Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) land can lead to misdemeanor proceedings and a fine of up to €1,200, if the operator lacks a permit and/or is flying in an area not specifically set aside for the purpose.
Capt. Karmo Nuut, commander of the EDF Military Police (Sõjaväepolitsei) investigation department said that: "While dozens of drone operators can on occasion be found in the immediate vicinity of the territories owned by the EDF, more recently the most severe cases have been affecting Ämari Air Base, where there is a restricted flight area, yet drones are being flown without coordination with the Air Force."
The Estonian Air Force (Õhuvägi) is organizationally a part of the EDF.
"In cases of drone operation, the EDF has state supervision rights, meaning over the last couple of months or so, the military police has prosecuted two drone operators for misdemeanor offenses committed in the vicinity of Ämari," Capt. Nuut went on, via an EDF press release.
Nuut added that in both cases, the perpetrators either claimed they were unaware of the regulations, or misunderstood those regulations.
Meanwhile, air force flight safety inspector Maj. Armin Mau said: "From the point of view of flight safety, flying uncoordinated drones in the controlled airspace surrounding Ämari Air Base represents a major problem."
"Military aviation activity constantly takes place in the air space around Ämari air base; this activity often differs from normal civilian aviation activity in terms of flight maneuvers. As a result, it is particularly vial that drones are flown in accordance with valid procedures, to ensure safety," Maj. Mau went on.
Drone-flying regulations in Estonia changed on March 1 this year, with a focus on improving safety near all airports and airfields. The regulations apply equally to Ämari, home, along with Šiauliai base in Lithuania, of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission.
The conditions for flying UAVs in the vicinity of Ämari, namely in geographical zones EEGZ19, EEGZ20 and EEGZ21, are set by the Transport Board (Transpordiamet) as follows:
- The restricted zone is in place 24/7.
- The zone's upper limit is 120 meters (400 feet) above land or water surfaces.
- Permission to operate a UAV in this area necessitates a permit, based on a prior notification which must be submitted to Ämari base no later than five working days before the planned flight.
- Immediately before operating a UAV, additional clearance must be obtained from the duty air traffic controller located at the Ämari air traffic control tower.
- The take-off and landing place of an UAV is also a controlled zone.
Additionally, Notice to Airman (NOTAM) information about temporary flight restrictions can be found here.
Under the terms of the Aviation Act, prior approval is required to fly a drone in a restricted area. Violation of flight rules can be penalized with a fine of up to €,1200.
Editor: Andrew Whyte