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Russia: Simplified Rules for Drone Operations

(June 30, 2016) On June 29, 2016, the Federation Council of the Russian Federation (the upper chamber of the legislature) approved without discussion the Law on Amendments to the Air Code of the Russian Federation Concerning the Use of Unmanned Aircraft and Requirements for Experimental Aviation Personnel, which was passed by the State Duma (the lower house of the legislature) of the Russian Federation earlier this month. (Press Release, Federation Council Approved Amendments Concerning Aviation Personnel and Experimental Aviation, Federation Council of the Russian Federation Federal Assembly website (June 29, 2016) (in Russian); text of the Law and Legislative Information, State Duma website (in Russian).)  The Law will enter into force ten days after it is signed by the President of the Russian Federation and officially published.

The newly passed Law allows the use of unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems or their elements that have a starting mass (the mass of the aircraft during take-off) of less than 30 kilograms (approximately 65 lbs.) without preliminary certification and operational registration. All previously existing qualification requirements for aviation personnel who operate these drones are removed, and no professional licenses are required for their operators if the drones are within the established weight limit.  (Law on Amendments, art.1(8).)

However, the requirement to register all domestically produced and imported unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.25 and 30 kilograms remains in force, and drones heavier than 30 kilograms will be subject to certification under Federal Aviation Rules that will be drafted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.  (Id. art. 1(4); Legislative Information, supra).  All registered drones will bear the image of the Russian state flag together with the device’s registration number, as drones are recognized as civil aircraft under the new Law.  (Federation Council Approved Amendments Concerning Aviation Personnel and Experimental Aviation, supra.)

Amendments to the Code requiring the registration of all unmanned air vehicles heavier than 0.25 kg were adopted last December. (Federal Law No. 462 of December 30, 2016, CONSULTANT.RU (in Russian).)  However, because no implementing documents defining the registration procedure were issued, almost all flights of drones in Russia were stopped.  According to news reports, the new Law corrects this situation.  (State Duma Cancelled Mandatory Registration of Light Drones, NEWSRU.COM (June 22, 2016) (in Russian).)