In general, technically, drones can be defined as unmanned aerial vehicles ("UAV"). UAVs are operated by remote control systems, automatic pilots, navigation equipments, operational information systems or artificial intelligence systems and without carrying any man, pilot or flying crew. According to the Article 8 of the Chicago Convention ("Convention"), UAVs defined as devices operates without pilots on its boards. This definition has also supported by the International Civil Aviation Organisation ("ICAO") in the 35th session of the general assembly of the organisation.
According to the Turkish Civil Aviation Law ("Law") which was published in the Official Gazette dated 14.10.1983 and numbered 2920, aircrafts divided into distinctions. These distinctions are civil- uncivil aircrafts and state aircrafts. Civil and uncivil aircrafts are defined in the Law as all kind of vehicles that can take-off from the ground and capable of navigating in air. As per the definition of the aircraft of the law UAVs are technically aircrafts and, due to this provision, shall comply with the provisions of the Law. Also, within the scope of the Law numbered 5431 on Civil Aviation General Directorate ("Directorate"), duties of the Airworthiness Department are defined. As per the Law numbered 5431, setting standards and inspections of civil UAVs will be made by the Directorate. Pursuant to the Turkish legislations relating to aircrafts, drones (UAVs) shall be counted as aircrafts and shall be complied with the provisions of the laws in both technical and legal aspects. In the aviation literature, the legal framework of the current and potential problems posed by UAVs are being discussed in two areas; civilian and military using purposes. In this article, matters relating to civilian using of UAVs are will be taken into consideration.
With the increase of the usage of UAVs, authorities and sector representatives in the aviation world are focusing on the subjects that generally fall under the term of the aviation law. Three main topics relating to legal status of the UAVs is constantly being discussed: (i) Integration of UAVs into common airspace and management of the common air traffic, (ii) issuing certificates of airworthiness for UAVs and (iii) issuing licenses and certificates to UAV Pilots and operators. The most controversial of these topics is integrating UAVs into the airspace which will be shared with the other conventional aircrafts. This issue is particularly become more important with the increasing demand of civilian using of UAVs. Almost all the UAVs are currently being used in separate airspace. Thus, drones are excluded from the common air traffic. The main reason UAVs (drones) are not permitted to share the common air space, they are flown by a ground-controlled pilot or fully autonomously and having inadequate "feel/perceive" and "avoidance" capabilities. Although, efforts to increase ability of feeling and avoidance capabilities are being conducted by all the manufacturers, there is still no clarity for when exactly these features will be achieved and how UAVs (drones) will be integrated into air traffic.
Regarding the UAVs, the first legal regulation was made by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation ("Directorate") is the Instruction on the Procedures and Principles of Operations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Separated Airfields (SHT-UAV) 54 pursuant to the laws numbered 5431 and 2920 on 30 October 2013. The purpose and the scope of the instructions in Article 1 and 2 of the instruction have been determined the airworthiness issues, procedures and principles regarding air traffic services that will be provided to UAV operations. The instruction is important as it is an arrangement that aims to control the legal gap and risks in Turkey. In this respect, it can be said that it contains the most up-to-date and clearest regulations regarding to legislation on UAVs' operations in Turkey. According to the legislation of the Directorate, drones has been divided into categories in respect of their weights. These categories are 500 grs-4 kgs, 4 kgs-25 kgs, 25 kgs-150 kgs and UAVs above 150 kgs and pilots are obliged to register their UAVs into the system provided by the Directorate as per their weights and before flying operations pilots are obliged to apply to Directorate and local authorities for operation permission. Also, obligation of making insurance covering third party damages for the UAVs more than 25 kgs is introduced with the legislation. The other provision introduced for practical usage of UAVs is the age limits for the pilots of UAVs. Pilot shall be older than 12 in order to operate UAVs that are between 500 grs- 4kgs. Also, pilot shall be older than 15 for the UAVs that are between 4 kgs- 25 kgs. In addition to these, pilots shall obtain special licences in order to operate UAVs that are in upper classes.
In conclusion, legislations relating to UAVs in Turkey can be considered as not prepared sufficiently to eliminate risk factors for operations of UAVs and inadequate to meet the legal necessities for parties. For instance, the instruction does not make a sufficient legal evaluation of the adverse events that can be arise from using of UAVs. In addition, according to most of the experts of aviation, it can be easily stated that the instruction has not been made as comprehensive as to meet the necessities of the sector and it is inadequate to guide the sector. As per the increase of the necessity of a comprehensive legal infrastructure for the UAVs, a new regulation is being expected from the Directorate in the near future in order to meet the necessities of the actors of the sector of UAVs in Turkey.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.