Government proposes amendments to the Aviation Act concerning air navigation obstacles and the use of drones

Press release 11.11.2022 17.10 fi sv en

Photo: Markus Pentikäinen / Keksi

The Government proposes amendments to the Aviation Act and the Act on Transport Services. In future, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency could establish an airspace where unmanned aircraft, i.e. drones, could be operated in a more controlled manner with the support of different services. The permission process for air navigation obstacles would also be amended. 

Little regulation currently exists on the airspace for unmanned aviation. However, the increasing number of drones has made comprehensive regulation necessary. The regulation aims to ensure aviation safety while enabling the operation of manned and unmanned aircraft side by side.

U-space means an airspace where both unmanned aircraft, or drones, and manned aircraft can be safely operated. The amended Aviation Act would contain a provision allowing the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency to establish a U-space airspace for a maximum period of three years. The legislative amendment will implement the EU’s U-space regulation.

An air navigation obstacle means a structure or equipment that may interfere with or endanger flight safety. According to the proposal, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency would continue to grant permissions for air navigation obstacles, but the applications would no longer need a statement which is currently issued by an air traffic service provider for a fee.

In addition, some minor amendments are proposed to the Aviation Act and the Act on Transport Services.

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency would be responsible for establishing a common airspace for drones and manned aircraft

The legislative amendment will implement the European Commission’s U-space regulations. Under the regulations, one or more U-space service providers, which offer services such as flight authorisations and a geo-awareness service for unmanned aircraft systems, and a common information service provider operate in the U-space airspace. The regulations leave the procedures relating to the establishment of U-space airspace and the designation of a common information service provider to the discretion of Member States.

The amended Aviation Act would contain a provision allowing the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency to establish a U-space airspace for a maximum period of three years. A U-space service provider could be designated by a government decision to provide the common information services on an exclusive basis for those flying in one or more U-space airspaces. Alternatively, the provision of common information could make use of the information from existing service providers, in which case the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency or a service provider authorised by it would be responsible for the provision. The Agency would issue regulations on which information the service providers should make available to U-space users.

Air traffic service providers would no longer issue statements for applications concerning air navigation obstacles

Under the Aviation Act, if an air navigation obstacle meets certain criteria, an application to get permission for it must be submitted to the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency. According to the legislative proposal, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency would continue to grant permissions for air navigation obstacles. However, a statement by the air traffic service provider would no longer be required for the application. The role of the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency would increase as it would analyse the applications for air navigation obstacles and, if necessary, request statements to support its decision.

A provision on maintaining a register of air navigation barriers and on the possibility of outsourcing the register would be added to the Act. Currently Fintraffic Air Navigation Services Ltd maintains the register of air navigation barriers.

What next?

On 10 November 2022, a referral debate will be held on the proposal submitted by the Government to Parliament. The timetable for the debate will be listed on Parliament’s website (upcoming plenary sessions). After the referral debate, the proposal will be sent to a Parliamentary Committee.

The acts would enter into force on 26 January 2023. Regulation on the process of granting permissions for air navigation obstacles would enter into force on 1 October 2023.

Inquiries:

Iida Huhtanen, Senior Officer, Legal Affairs, tel. +358 295 342 613, iida.huhtanen@gov.fi