Finland Introduces New Liberal Aviation Regulation

30 November 2015

Iiro Loimaala

Risk-based regulation

Finland has introduced a new aviation regulation governing the use of unmanned aircraft and flying models which entered into force on 9 October 2015. Although the new regulation introduces several new rules limiting the use of unmanned aircraft, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency ("TRAFI") has stated that the regulation is one of the most liberal aviation regulations in the world.

The approach of the regulation is based on potential risks caused by the aircraft, and the level of regulation depends on how the aircraft is used. For instance, the requirements for model aircraft which do not carry a pilot and are used for recreational or sporting purposes are significantly lighter than those set for remotely piloted aircraft used professionally ("RPA"). For example, the administrative burden is lighter for model aircraft and, for instance, their flights do not need to be logged. Further, risks associated with the operations of different aircraft are identified, assessed and mitigated mainly through the operators’ own risk management procedures. As a rule, no prior permissions are required although certain notification obligations exist.

Even risk-based regulation means more regulation

Although the new regulation is risk-based, it introduces new rules concerning activities which were not regulated earlier. The new regulation aims at ensuring safety by setting requirements for the aircraft, flight operations and areas where the aircraft is used.

For example, flights over densely populated areas are subject to limitations concerning the mass, piloting and altitude of an aircraft. Further, all RPA must be equipped with a system, or alternatively the remote pilot must have a procedure in place, for dealing with a breakdown in communications relating to the control or monitoring of the aircraft or a fault in the aircraft. Operations that deviate from the general conditions set out in the regulation, such as beyond visual line-of-sight operations, are only permitted in areas that are specifically reserved for such purpose. Aviation in certain areas is prohibited or restricted.

On the other hand, professional operators may also carry out such tasks that are not allowed for recreational flyers. For instance, requirements for flying over densely populated areas are more strict for model aircraft than RPA.  TRAFI supervising compliance with the regulation may also grant exemptions from certain conditions set out in the regulation.

Other regulation may apply as well

Unmanned aircraft contains technology enabling novel business and free-time activities. For instance, cameras used in RPA allow recording large amounts of high quality images and video of places, property and individuals. Therefore, additional regulation on, for example, inviolability of domicile, privacy and data protection and intellectual property may also apply.