Earlier this year Poland became one of the first countries in the world where commercial drone operators could apply for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight authorisations using a simple-on-line request form. Like many countries around the world Poland has introduced a free on-line drone registration scheme but unlike many countries the on-line tool can also process – for a fee – flight authorisation requests. It costs drone operators around EUR 9 for an authorisation reservation number.
Done operators in Dubai are not so lucky. There, it can cost up to AED520 (EUR 125) to register a drone for commercial flights. In terms of authorisation fees, “for filming, this would usually be Dubai Film and TV Commission (DFTC) who in turn get approvals from the Ministry of Defence. Fees are around AED 3,300 (EUR 791) and upwards depending on filming location. For reducing the processing time to five working days, (operators) could pay an additional online fee of AED 5,100 EUR 1,222) to DCAA.” In Switzerland the cost can be even more.
Comparing costs for registration, drone operating licences and flight authorisations*
|Country||Drone registration cost|
|Canada||CD5 (EUR 3.3) per drone|
|Israel||NIS30 (EUR 7.3) per drone|
|USA||USD5 (EUR 4.4) per drone|
|Saudi Arabia||A recreational drone permit costs SR 250 (EUR 9) and commercial drone permit SR 500 (EUR 118).|
|Switzerland||SFR 25 (EUR 22) per drone|
|Country||Corporate drone operating licences|
|Canada||Up to CD2000 (EUR 1,323)|
|China||Up to ¥10,000 (EUR 1,311).|
|Dubai||Between AED 120 (EUR 29) and AED520 (EUR 124)|
|Germany||Up to EUR 300 for a licence|
|Singapore||SD600 (EUR 382)|
|Switzerland||Theoretical exams plus practical flight test costing an estimated SFR 210 (EUR 184)|
|UK||Remote Pilot Competence Standard Permission £247 (EUR 286)/ Non-Standard Permission – £1729 (EUR 2,008)|
|USA||Airman Knowledge Test – USD 150 (EUR 132)|
|Countries||Flight authorisation for commercial flights|
|Dubai||AED 3020 (EUR 766) Application for a permit to fly an UAS/RPAS for aerial filming or advertising purposes
AED 1520 (EUR 363) Application for a no‐objection certificate to fly a drone once for commercial purposes – Demonstration
AED 5020 (EUR 1201) Application for a no‐objection certificate to fly a drone during an event AED 3020 (EUR 722) Application for permit to fly an RPAS for aerial survey purposes
|Poland||Registration number reservation costs around 9 EUR|
|Singapore||SD 60-70 (EU R39-45)|
|Switzerland||Between SFr 50 to SFr 5000 per flight (EUR 4,401)**|
*Costs as published and reported – individual charges may differ. These tables are examples and not a complete global breakdown.
Very wide gaps are appearing in the way different States charge for the services they offer, reflecting their very different priorities. In theory there are five areas in which civil aviation authorities (CAAs) and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) can charge drone operators for their services:
- Registration fee (normally paid to the national CAA rather than the ANSP in states where these two organisations are separated)
- Commercial operating licence (as above)
- Private/recreational licence (as above)
- Commercial operator BVLOS flight authorisation (the ANSP)
- ID/tracking box (CAA/ANSP)
Most commercialised ANSPs, when considering how to fund their UTM programmes have followed the ENAV business case (see https://www.unmannedairspace.info/uncategorized/enav-estimates-eur-75-million-utm-income-2028/) which is predicated on income from commercial drone services bringing in revenues of EUR 70-75 million between 2018-2028 which will more than cover the EUR 50-60 million operational and development costs over the same time. Most of these costs will be generated by charging commercial operators for BVLOS authorisations and Italy, like every other country in the world at the moment, has no public plans to charge private operators for VLOS hobby flights.
ENAV’s proposed UTM charging mechanism
|Regulated services||UAV registration (to ENAC)||Registration fee (per UAV) una tantum||EUR5||EUR5|
|Regulated services||E-identification and tracking||Annual fee (per operator)||EUR5||EUR20|
|Regulated services||UTM box (lease for e- ident and tracking)||Annual fee||EUR40 (optional)||EUR40|
|Regulated services||Support to mission – submission/approval||Per mission (only specific)||N/a||EUR30|
|Regulated services||Monitoring and alerting||Fee per hour of flight (only specific)||N/a||EUR1|
|Non- regulated services||Premium services||Annual fee||EUR5||Included|
While most drone registration costs are either free or relatively low, flying commercial drones in Dubai and Switzerland is an expensive business. Many in the UTM industry believe the cost for those commercial services which are currently allowed will come down as drone numbers increase.
Most ANSPs are currently prioritising free or low cost registration systems to ensure as many drones as possible are logged in with the regulator for security and identity reasons. But costs and charges for authorising commercial drone flights vary considerably.
There are also widely differing views on how flight monitoring and ID systems are to be introduced – via mandated, government supplied “tracking boxes” or vie operator-installed systems which can be accessed and monitored by the ANSP/regulator. India, for example, is planning to equip No Permission No Take-off (NPNT) hardware pre-programmed with no-fly zones and integrated within the Digital Sky Platform flight registration and authorisation system.
As commercially-minded ANSPs look to launch their UTM systems to support commercial BVLOS flights in 2020 the economics of registering, licensing and flying these operations are likely to become even more diverse. No doubt national drone lobbying groups will intensify the pressure to bring down charges to the lowest available or risk, they will argue, other states gaining a competitive advantage in this new, fast-growing industry,