Why I’m registering my MavicPro when I don’t legally have to, yet.

As Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), or drones, are taking to the skies in growing numbers, more incidents are bound to happen. What most recreational pilots don’t realise is that the sky is not an open playground, it is actually very tightly regulated. More so than our motorways.

The orange coloured circles are no-fly zones for drones, but that doesn't automatically mean the rest is! It's not that simple, unfortunately. Map source an © : ICAO

The orange coloured circles are no-fly zones for drones, but that doesn't automatically mean the rest is! It's not that simple, unfortunately. Map source an © : ICAO


The biggest danger of higher number of drones in the sky is the fact that a lot of (recreational) drone pilots do not know the rules, laws or even how to properly pilot their aircraft.

People buy a drone as an expensive toy, or get one gifted. What seems like a ton of fun is to just launch it and fool around a bit in the sky, or perhaps take cool photos or do a roof inspection. Unfortunately a drone is not a toy but an aircraft and this distinction has very serious implications as far as legal consequences are concerned.

Just as a person is not allowed to drive a car on public roads without a drivers license, pilots are not allowed to fly an aircraft without a pilot licence. Of course a DJI MavicPro is not quite the same as a Boeing 777-300, just like a Prius is not a mega ton truck. So different licences are issued depending on the type of aircraft and it’s intended use.

The law in most countries differentiates between professional pilots and recreational pilots and the type of aircraft, be it a mini drone or a Airbus A380. As a first time recreational drone pilot it might surprise you that the laws that govern the usage of the sky, are the same for your drone as for the Airbus A380!

In the Netherlands, where I live, the regulatory body for air traffic makes exemptions for recreational pilots of drones (divided into weight class). An exception doesn’t invalidate the law, it just means that in very particular cases that law won’t be applied.

The growing number of drones has forced countries to look for ways how to keep the sky safe for all aircraft. It would be simple if every pilot would simply work within the law. That way there wouldn’t be many incidents caused by drones. But like I said earlier, a lot of recreational pilots don’t know the law, so how can a government, or indeed another pilot, trust things will be just fine.

I’m pleased to say that countries like the United Kingdomthe Netherlands and Germany (PDF) for instance, have chosen for a combination of education and registration. And the education part here is key! 

Education of drone pilots through certified programs is, in my opinion, the best way to keep the sky safe. After finishing the program the pilot can be licensed and have his aircraft registered. Just like when you want to start driving a motor vehicle on public roads, you study the rules, learn to operate the car, get a licence and register your car.

My MavicPro with ID tag, Partly obscured - jwamsterdam.com

Due to the recreational use of my MavicPro and the weight class it falls into, I don’t need a Remote Pilot Licence, and in the Netherlands my drone doesn’t even need to be registered, yet.

However in Germany, where I sometimes fly my MavicPro, the law stipulates that the aircraft has an fireproof identification plate permanently attached to the hull of the aircraft (from 1 October 2017). 

Since I fly in at least one country where the drone needs to have an identification plate attached, I decided that I’d register it in my homecountry and have that registration number tied to the MavicPro. That way the drone will be registered by the time similar laws go into effect in the entire European Union and other countries.

In the mean time I’m saving up for a Operator License (to conduct commercial flights) and a Remote Pilot License (to be able to fly drones for commercial operators).