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Latvia: New Regulations on Drone Operation

(Jan. 26, 2017) The Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia adopted regulations on the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles on November 22, 2016. (Decision No. 737 of Nov. 22, 2016, LATVIJAS VĒSTNESIS [LATVIAN OFFICIAL GAZETTE], No. 231 (Nov. 28, 2016) (in Latvian).)  The new regulations require the drones to have special markings that include the full name of the owner and his or her address and phone number.  (Id.)

Operators must wear special clothing to make them visible from a distance. They are prohibited from operating drones under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  (Id.)

The maximum altitude for drone operation is set at 120 meters. Drones weighing less than 25 kilos may be operated without a permit outside of populated areas and aerodromes; those weighing less than 1.5 kilos can also be operated within populated areas without permits. In all other cases, a permit must be obtained from the civil aviation agency.  (Id.)

It is not permitted to operate drones during nighttime hours and over designated types of government buildings, e.g., penitentiary and military buildings, the Bank of Latvia, police stations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the building of the Council of Ministers, and the Parliament .  In 2018, the government will introduce mandatory liability insurance for drones weighing more than 1.5 kilos.  (Id.)

The new regulations will be enforced by the police, and violators will be penalized with fines of up to €300 (about US$318) for individuals and €1,000 for legal entities. (Id.; Code of Administrative Offenses, OFFICIAL GAZETTE, No. 51 (Dec. 20, 1984), art. 114, available at LIKUMI (in Latvian).)  The regulations were designed as a temporary solution to the problem of controlling drone use and are expected to remain in force until  uniform regulations for the European Union are adopted.  (Diana Spynu, Latvian Drones’ “Wings Clipped,” LSM.LV (Dec. 2, 2016) (in Russian).)

Prepared by Nerses Isajanian, Foreign Law Consultant, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.