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Summary

Israel’s Aviation Law regulates the operation and manufacturing of all aircraft, including unmanned aircraft (UA) in Israel. The Law imposes licensing requirements on flight operators, aviation instructors, manufacturers, and all other persons engaged in aviation. Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAI) controls the licensing and supervision of civilian flight operations, and maintains a special unit for UA operations. The CAAI has issued a number of directives to regulate various aspects of UA activities, including flight altitude and authorized routes, required transmission devices, and procedures for the preapproval of flights.

In addition to issuing operational directives, the CAAI has published a draft proposal for registration of UA. The proposed register would include all UA owned by Israeli citizens or by Israeli corporations that have received authorization to deal with UA in Israel. The proposal also calls for labeling UA with information confirming their Israeli registration, the name of manufacturer, and the registration number. In addition, the proposal would require fire-resistant license plates in all UA. The plates would contain specific identifying information including aircraft type, model, and serial number, as well as UA authorization status.

A concept paper issued by the CAAI incorporates licensing requirements under Circular 328 AN/190 of the International Civil Aviation Organization regarding UA systems. The concept paper calls for the issuance of UA licenses for various aviation operators, depending on flight type, category, and class.

Flying any aircraft, including UA, in Israeli airspace is subject to spatial and geographic restrictions. In addition to aircraft, the restrictions apply to unmanned powered or unpowered air devices weighing at least 300 grams (0.66 pounds), which are used or designed to be used for sports and leisure purposes.

I. Introduction

Having pioneered the modern use of unmanned aircraft (UA) for intelligence gathering and target identification in the mid-1970s, Israel was reportedly the world’s largest exporter of UA between 2010 and 2014. [1] Foreign UA sales from 2005 to 2012 by Israeli companies were estimated at over US$4.5 billion. [2] In addition to developing UA for military uses, several Israeli startups are currently working on exploring civilian uses for UA and on finding ways to make UA technology safe, simple, and affordable. [3] According to Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAI), fifteen companies are now engaged in developing unmanned aircraft, and more than thirty platforms are in different stages of development.[4]

UA operations are subject to the application of the Aviation Law, 5771-2011 and related regulations. [5] Since the first UA flight in the mid-1970s, flight approvals for all unmanned aircraft in Israel have been controlled by the Israeli Airforce. [6] With the increased volume of experimental flights conducted by Israeli defense industries engaged in UA development for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and for foreign clients, the Airforce has reportedly decided to direct requests for civilian flight approval to the CAAI. This has resulted in a comprehensive review of relevant legislation on UA operations in Israel. [7]

In February 2005 the Knesset passed Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority Law, 5765-2005. This Law establishes the CAAI as an agency under the Ministry of Transportation.[8] The CAAI is responsible for improving, regulating, and developing civil aviation in Israel in accordance with Israeli aviation laws. [9] The CAAI maintains a special unit for unmanned aircraft systems under the Department for Aerial Control. [10] The CAAI has issued a number of directives to regulate various aspects of UA flight operations.

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II. Licensing Requirements

The Aviation Law regulates the operation of all “aircraft.” According to the definition provided by the Law, an aircraft is any machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air other than the reactions of the air against the earth’s surface, excluding “paragliding tools” (PTs).[11]

Unlike PTs, UA are subject to the general provisions that apply to all “aircraft.” [12] According to the Aviation Law, any person who “engages in an aviation profession,” including by flying, conducting aircraft quality inspections, or providing aviation instruction or air control services, is required to be licensed. [13] The Law authorizes the Minister, with the approval of the Knesset (Parliament) Finance Committee, to adopt rules for the grant of aviation professionals’ licenses. Items that may be considered for licensing include the applicant’s age, proof of subject-matter knowledge, training and testing, medical certification, and criminal record.[14]

Aircraft operators must meet the specific requirements in their licenses. [15] To receive a license, operators of commercial aircraft must meet certain conditions, including residence in Israel while not having his/her primary business located abroad, or Israeli citizenship when the licensee’s primary business is located in Israel. [16] In the case of a corporation, a license to operate commercial aircraft will only be issued if the corporation is incorporated in Israel; does not have its primary business activity outside of Israel; and is controlled by an Israeli citizen, an Israeli permanent resident, or another person in accordance with the provisions of an international aviation convention [the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation, including supplements and amendments as ratified by the State of Israel] to which Israel is a party. [17] Additional requirements for licensing of commercial operations include possession of the aircraft and necessary equipment for its operation, and authorization for flying and landing in designated areas in Israel. [18]

In addition to regulating the operation of aircraft, the Aviation Law requires registration and preapproval of the use of any “flight auxiliary facility” (FAF). The Law defines an FAF as any device located outside of the aircraft that is used to assist the operation of the aircraft, including by navigation and flying.[19] The Law also imposes licensing requirements on the manufacture of all aircraft, including UA. Among the conditions for the issuance of a manufacturing license are the availability of equipment necessary for the production of aircraft and the operation of a system of quality control by the manufacturer. The Law further authorizes the Minister to issue regulations regarding specific aspects of the design and production of aircraft. [20]

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III. Spatial Restrictions

The Aviation Law authorizes the Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, with the consent of the Minister of Defense, or the government in the absence of such consent, to designate areas for flights of civilian and military aircraft. [21] The decision regarding coordinates and routes through which aircrafts would enter, pass through or exit Israeli airspace, will similarly be made by the Ministers, having consulted with the Minister of Environment Protection, and by the government, in the absence of such consent. [22]

The Aviation Regulations (Operating Aircraft and Aviation Rules), 5742-1981, [23] issued by the Minister, accordingly divide Israel’s Flight Information Region into areas where flying is permitted, areas where flying is prohibited or restricted, and areas that are considered dangerous. [24] The geographic restrictions under the regulations apply to all aircraft, including UA. [25] The restrictions also expressly provide that they are applicable to unmanned powered as well as unpowered air devices of at least 300 grams (0.66 pounds), which are used or designed to be used for sports and leisure purposes. [26]

Among those areas where flying under a specified altitude is prohibited are designated natural reserves and antiquities, locations of refineries and a power plant, the Biological Research Institute in Nes Tsiona, and firing ranges. Flying over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is completely prohibited for all aircraft at any altitude except for commercial flights in aviation routes to and from the Ben Gurion International Airport flying 8,000 feet above sea level.[27] In the case of other areas in Jerusalem, flying at 4,000 feet or higher may be authorized subject to satisfying security procedures at the airport, the use of an Israeli pilot who has completed special training at the Ministry of Transportation Security Department, and the preapproval of a detailed authorization request by that Department. [28] Flying over the nuclear reactor in Dimona is completely prohibited at any altitude. [29] A full prohibition similarly applies to flying over Gaza at any altitude. [30]

Areas where flying is restricted include certain firing ranges during weekdays. [31] The rules also designate two areas where flying is dangerous, [32] and prohibit flying within specific distances from Israel’s borders.[33] Special requests to deviate from geographic restrictions other than those regarding distances from the borders may be submitted to the CAAI’s operations unit for approval. [34]

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IV. Regulation of UA Flights

UA flight operations are subject to specific rules issued by the CAAI. Accordingly, except for takeoff and landing, or by special prior approval, UA flights over a populated area can be conducted only at 5,000 feet or higher. Experimental flights also require prior approval. The rules prohibit the simultaneous remote operation of more than one UA by the same operator from the same remote pilot station in the absence of special authorization. [35] Special rules also apply to ensure that the UA operator maintains control over the UA flight at all times, [36] and to generally prevent the flying of UA in air space where manned aircraft fly. [37]

The rules require that specific equipment be located in or on the UA as well as in the pilot station during flight. For example, a UA is generally required to have a properly operating transponder. A communication signal and a code for identification of the transponder must be defined for every UA flight. A flight manual and radio devices with certain reception and transmission abilities must be located at the pilot station. [38] Additional rules apply to flight procedures and flight approval requests. [39]

The CAAI has assigned specific geographic parameters to areas navigated by UA. [40] Maps for UA flight routes are provided on the CAAI website. [41]

CAAI directives further define and assign direct responsibility for UA flight operations, [42] determine the range that must exist between a UA and its transponder, [43] specify the information that must be included in a request for flight approval, [44] regulate automatic take-off and landing systems for UA, [45] and establish safety transportation procedures, [46] among other matters.

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V. Registration and Labeling of UA

In preparation for specific regulations on the subject, the CAAI has published a draft proposal for registration and labeling of UA. Among the proposal’s objectives are the encouragement of the use of UA for commercial activities by facilitating proof of ownership, providing the state with the ability to prevent the use of UA by criminal or terrorist players, encouraging proper operation by enabling third parties to identify and complain about improper UA use, and facilitating UA identification for purposes of investigating accidents. [47]

According to the proposal, the CAAI would maintain a register of all UA based on proof of ownership. Registration of UA would be authorized only for Israeli citizens or corporations that have received authorization to deal with UA. The registration of foreign-registered UA, however, would be prohibited, and UA sold to foreign countries would be deleted from the register. [48]

The proposal also calls for labeling of UA in a way that would confirm that they were registered in Israel, providing the name of the manufacturer, and providing their specific registration number. The registration number would be removed, however, if the UA were sold to a foreign country. [49] A conspicuous label is further proposed for any UA authorized to fly outside of a designated area and/or that weighs more than 200 kilograms (about 441 pounds) at the time of takeoff.[50]

In addition to general labeling, the proposal provides for the mandatory placement of a fire-resistant license plate in each UA. The license plate would contain identifying information on the type of UA system, model number, date of manufacture and identification of the manufacturer, numbers correlating to the relevant serial and UA authorization, and other information as required. [51]

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VI. Licensing of UA Flight Operators

A concept paper published by the CAAI Unit for Unmanned Aircraft Systems [52] incorporates the requirements provided by Circular 328 AN/190 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), titledUnmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), into a regulatory proposal. [53]

In addressing UA personnel licensing, the concept paper quotes the ICAO Circular as follows:

Personnel licensing provides harmonization within a single airspace as well as across national and regional boundaries. The remote pilot of a UAS and the pilot of a manned aircraft have the same ultimate responsibility for the safe operation of their aircraft and therefore have the same obligation for knowledge of air law and flight performance, planning and loading, human performance, meteorology, navigation, operational procedures, principles of flight and radiotelephony. Both pilots must obtain flight instruction, demonstrate their skill, achieve a level of experience, and be licensed. They must also be proficient in the language used for radiotelephony and meet medical fitness levels, although the latter may be modified as appropriate for the UAS environment.[54]

Accordingly, the concept paper proposes that flying a UA should require a license containing a specified authorization for the type of activity and equipment involved. Such a license would either be issued by the CAAI or by an ICAO member country, with authorization provided by the CAAI. [55] Conditions for the issuance of flight licenses would include a minimum number of prior takeoffs and landings, depending on the type of flight. [56] A license limited to flying subject to “visual line of sight” (VLOS), for example, would generally be issued only for flying a UA for commercial objectives if the operator had conducted at least three takeoffs and landings in the ninety days preceding the flight. [57] The type of licenses issued would be based on the characteristics of the operator (trainee, flyer of a UA subject to VLOS, UA flyer, and UA instructor); on the type of flight (domestic, external, experimental); and on the UA type, category, and class.[58]

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VII. Enforcement

As UA are considered “aircraft” for purposes of applying Israeli aviation legislation, the violation of licensing requirements enumerated in the Aviation Law results in the same penalties that apply to manned aircraft. Such penalties range from imprisonment for a period of one to five years to administrative fines rendered by the CAAI. [59] An order to pay a fine is appealable to the circuit court. [60]

The CAAI has extensive authority to issue and withdraw licenses provided to flight operators. The CAAI’s enforcement authority also extends to the prevention of imminent danger to personal or public security, and to property. [61]

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Prepared by Ruth Levush
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
April 2016


[1] George Arnett, The Numbers Behind the Worldwide Trade in Drones, The Guardian (Mar. 16, 2015), http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/mar/16/numbers-behind-worldwide-trade-in-drones-uk-israel , archived at https://perma.cc/8XE6-ZDUN; see also Josh Meyer,Why Israel Dominates Global Drone Exports (July 10, 2013),http://qz.com/102200/why-israel-dominates-global-drone-exports, archived at https://perma.cc/Z6FN-3ZDH.

[2] Daniel Tepper, Newest Trend for Israeli Drone Industry: Shooting Them Down, Vice News (Sept. 14, 2015), https://news.vice.com/article/newest-trend-for-israeli-drone-industry-shooting-them-down , archived at https://perma.cc/L3GP-XWZ7.

[3] Ora Coren, As Civilian Market Booms, Drone Pioneer Israel Is Playing Catch Up, Haaretz, (Sept. 9, 2015),http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/.premium-1.675178, archived at https://perma.cc/3L4U-BN5J.

[4] CAAI, Concept for Licensing of Flyers of Unmanned Aircraft 2011/11, at 3, http://caa.gov.il/index.php? option=com_docman&view=download&alias=5171-remote-pilot-licence-caai-1&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-38-50-7&Itemid=669&lang=he (last visited Mar. 22, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/72MJ-VFCM. CAAI documents and all other legal sources cited in this report are in Hebrew.

[5] Aviation Law, 5771-2011, Sefer HaHukim [SH] [Book of Laws] (official gazette), 5771 No. 2296 p. 830, as amended, available at http://caa.gov.il/index.php?option=com_docman&view=download&alias=5307-1927-2016&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-39-02-8&Itemid=669&lang=he , archived at https://perma.cc/9LDH-X4VF.

[6] Ran Kleiner, Flying Above the Law: Operating [Unmanned] Aircraft in Israel, Legal or Not?, GeekTime (Aug. 4, 2015),http://www.geektime.co.il/does-using-drones-allowed-in-israel, archived at https://perma.cc/CKB7-AM4Z.

[7] Id .

[9] Id . § 1.

[10] Status and Organizational Structure , CAAI, http://caa.gov.il/index.php?option=com_content&view=article &id=49&Itemid=820&lang=he (last visited Apr. 4, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/L27V-T4TR.

[11] Aviation Law §§ 1 & 168(a)(8). The operation of hang gliders, powered hang gliders, paragliders, powered paragliders, and powered parachutes are subject to the Aviation (Paragliding Tools) Regulations, 5775-2015, Kovetz HaTakanot [KT] [Subsidiary Legislation] No. 7503 p. 1090, available at http://caa.gov.il/index. php?option=com_docman&view=download&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-39-02-8&alias=4841-takanot-cli-rhifa-2015&Itemid=669&lang=he , archived at https://perma.cc/PVS8-Y63L. The regulations impose licensing requirements on operators of PTs; set geographical restrictions; and list safety requirements for the general, commercial, and instructional operation of PTs.

[12] Kleiner, supra note 6.

[13] Aviation Law § 2.

[14] Id . §§ 3 & 6.

[15] Id . § 17(b).

[16] Id . § 18(a)(1)(a).

[17] Id . §§ 1 & 18(a)(1)(b); International Civil Aviation Organization, Convention on International Civil Aviation, Doc. 7300 (1944) (9th ed. 2006),http://www.icao.int/publications/Documents/7300_cons.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/QA7K-WVN7.

[18] Aviation Law §§ 17 & 18.

[19] Id . §§ 1 & 35.

[20] Id . §§ 50–55.

[21] Id . § 80.

[22] Id . § 81.

[23] Aviation Regulations (Operating Aircraft and Aviation Rules) 5742-1981, §§ 1 & 164, KT 5742 No. 4276 p. 8, as amended,available at Nevo Legal Database, http://www.nevo.co.il (by subscription; last visited Apr. 1, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/3BHC-TQJV.

[24] Id . §§ 50–53, archived at https://perma.cc/6UYB-L7EF.

[25] See the definition of “aircraft,” Aviation Law, 5771-2011, § 1.

[26] Aviation Regulations (Operating Aircraft and Aviation Rules) 5742-1981, §§ 1 & 164. For specific restrictions issued by the CAAI, see CAAI, Areas Prohibited, Restricted and Dangerous for Flying (A-17-1), http://caa.gov.il/ index.php?option=com_ docman&view=download&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-39-29-7&alias=4043-alef-17-final-03-04-2014&Itemid=669&lang=he (last visited Mar. 23, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/CHJ7-4STB.

[27] CAAI, Areas Prohibited, Restricted and Dangerous for Flying, supra note 26, § 1(11).

[28] Id . § 1(13).

[29] Id . § 1(15).

[30] Id . § 1(20).

[31] Id . § 2.

[32] Id . § 3.

[33] Id . § 4.

[34] Id . § 5.

[36] Id . § 3.

[37] Id . § 4.

[38] Id . § 8.

[39] Id . §§ 5–6.

[40] Id . supp. C.

[41] Map of Aviation Areas for UA: Changes: CTRs, Training Areas, Routing (Dec. 11, 2014), id., supp. A, http://caa.gov.il/index.php?option=com_docman&view=download&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-39-40&alias=4528-bet-09-alef-11-12-14&Itemid=669&lang=he , archived at https://perma.cc/F2KW-FBKJ; Map for Mini UAs (UAs Weighing Between 1.5–15 kg (3.30693–33.0693 lb): Changes: CTRs, Training Areas, Routing, Altitudes (Dec. 11, 2014), http://caa.gov.il/index.php?option=com_docman&view=download&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-39-40&alias=4529-bet-09-bet-11-12-14&Itemid=669&lang=he , archived at https://perma.cc/CX6J-ZKHA.

[42] State of Israel, Ministry of Transport, Directive SP002: UA Flyer/Operator – Commander, http://caa.gov.il/index. php?option=com_docman&view=download&alias=5199-2015-11-18-07-03-41-1&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-38-50-7&Itemid=669&lang=he (last visited Apr. 4, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/N6EL-2DJ3.

[43] State of Israel, Ministry of Transport, Directive SP003: Maximum Range Between Aircraft and Radio Station When There Is No Wireless Transmitter in the Aircraft Itself, http://caa.gov.il/index.php?option=com_docman& view=download&alias=5198-2015-11-18-07-03-41&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-38-50-7&Itemid=669&lang=he (last visited Apr. 4, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/J2LA-D8NT.

[44] State of Israel, Ministry of Transport, Directive SP004: Flight Opening Route, http://caa.gov.il/index.php?option= com_docman&view=download&alias=5197-2015-11-18-07-03-40-1&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-38-50-7&Item id=669&lang=he (last visited April 4, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/PKB9-VFSC.

[46] State of Israel, Ministry of Transport, Directive SP013: Transporting Procedures, http://caa.gov.il/index.php? option=com_docman&view=download&alias=5194-2015-11-18-07-02-48&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-38-50-7&Itemid=669&lang=he (last visited April 4, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/V8JY-WQLL.

[47] CAAI, Registration and Labeling of UA Systems – Draft for Comments CAAI (Version 4) § 1, http://caa.gov.il/ index.php?option=com_docman&view=download&alias=753-2015-10-13-06-44-28&category_slug=2015-10-13-06-39-02-2&Itemid=669&lang=he (last visited Mar. 24, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/5RDU-ZZ8Y.

[48] Id. § 2.

[49] Id. §§ 3.1–3.5.

[50] Id. § 3.2.

[51] Id. § 4.

[52] CAAI, Concept for Licensing of Flyers of Unmanned Aircraft 2011/11, supra note 4, at 3.

[54] Id. § 2.14.

[55] CAAI, Concept for Licensing of Flyers of Unmanned Aircraft 2011/11, supra note 4, § 3.1.

[56] Id. § 3.3.

[57] Id. § 3.2.

[58] Id. § 4.1.3.

[59] Aviation Law, 5771-2011, §§ 142–162.

[60] Id. § 159.

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Last Updated: 07/22/2016