Around 2,000 drones are sold every month in Belgium. These unmanned aircrafts are also increasingly being used for commercial purposes. A total of more than 2300 large drones have already been registered in our country today. The increasing drone traffic, however, entails new risks. What if my drone crashes? Or worse, if it causes damage to third parties? And how can we protect ourselves against drone owners with bad intentions? Visitors to the exchange event on 23 May in DronePort, organized by BELRIM and Vanbreda, received answers to these questions.

Currently, each country has its own legislation for unmanned aviation, in order to control airspace security. From the end of June 2020, a covering European legislation will come into force, which was finally accepted today by the European Commission. These new rules were briefly explained by Mark Vanlook, Chairman of the Flemish drone cluster EUKA.

New European legislation

“There will be 3 categories of flights: the open, the specific and the certified category. Especially for the open category, now the recreational drone operators, a lot is going to change ”, Vanlook knows. Because soon every drone weighing more than 250 grams or with a camera on board must have a unique ID, so that it can be quickly identified by the authorities. For owners of drones that weigh more than 900 grams, a compulsory drone degree will be obligated that can be obtained after a theoretic training and exam.

Safe flying in risk zones

These rules are necessary, because every flight carries certain risks. Michiel Scharpé came to tell how his company Trinovahelps other companies perform air inspections and investigate complex locations such as sensitive industrial installations or densely populated areas. In such environments there are many dangers such as squalls, low flying birds, helicopters, limited landing possibilities, released gasses, narrow passages and little space to fly.

Inspections with drones are in fact safer, quicker and more precise, if of course the ‘flight envelope’ of the drone and the general drone legislation is respected. According to the company, that are the fundaments for safe drone operations. “The use of a D-RTK is also not unimportant. This is a high-precision positioning system and ensures ultra-accurate, centimeter-sensitive 3D positioning. This is certainly a must have for industrial and scientific applications,” concludes Scharpé.

Dropping drones safely

Rules are only meaningful if they are respected of course. But what if not everyone will obey the new rules imposed by Europe? BATS, Belgian Advanced Technology Systems, has developed a radar system that can detect, jam and take down drones within a 5 km radius. A jammer removes all communication signals in a certain zone, from radio signals to WiFi and GPS. Then a take-over system comes in action to take over all communication and let the drone land in a safe location.

Such systems have already been used for quite a while in military applications. But drones will also be used more and more for commercial applications and the number of unmanned flying aircraft will increase significantly. Such systems therefore become indispensable, according to the radar manufacturer. Not only to eliminate malicious drones, but also to protect the airspace around airports, events and other risk zones, to prevent dramatic accidents for example. The mobile system can be built into a van and must also save the insurance companies millions of euros in the long term.

DJI implements aircraft scanner

Also the developers of drones take measures themselves to guarantee airspace safety. For example, DJI today announced that from 2020 it will equip all drones over 250 grams with their new AirSense warning system by default (video). This technology receives ADS-B signals from nearby airplanes and helicopters and warns the drone pilots in the event that they fly too close.

“DJI leads the drone industry in developing safety technology and education, and we continue that tradition today by setting higher expectations for ourselves, our competitors and regulators,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President for Policy & Legal Affairs. “DJI was the first company to offer geofencing, automatic altitude limits, return-to-home technology and other safety features to the world’s growing community of personal and professional drone pilots.

What if things go wrong anyway?

Accidents with drones are often a point of contention with insurance companies. What many drone owners do not know is that aviation activities are usually excluded by the standard family insurance plan. If a drone causes damage to third parties, this can have fierce consequences for the owner. That is why there is a need for a specific insurance offer. Vanbreda has developed an ‘Infinity Program’, a package that covers all the risks that drones entail.

Such a package contains different types of protection, “explains Van Baeda, Koen Bauwens. “There is the protection of the” hull “, the hardware let’s say. This covers the drone’s own damage in the event of a collision, theft or other damage. In that case, the premium mainly depends on the value of the device, the docking and / or the payload. Other security measures are also taken into account, such as the use of a parachute for example. “On the other hand, there is the “liability “part in the event of damage to third parties. This is usually a fairly standard premium.