I got busted in Spain! I did not blow away my roll on high stakes Poker tables. Nor did I get robbed in a dodgy underground card club. I got caught flying my drone. 🙈
I had to reorganise my time management big time since the beginning of the pandemic. My core activity being to move around and shoot stuff, travel limitation and cancellation of all sorts cost me hugely financially speaking but left me with an enormous time capital at my disposal. I used that time liquidity mainly to train myself at various things. A lot of Poker of course, a bit of chess and tons of photography or video making combined with hiking. I read quite a bit about business approaches, got into crypto and did some personal development improvements.
In terms of hobbies, I could have picked up painting or singing. But, in grand Damian style, I picked an exciting emerging activity - something not really crazy but potentially dangerous if not done properly and governed by new and shifting sets of regulations and laws: flying drones & aerial photography.
I've been fooling around a bit with friends' drones and I've been watching over operators' shoulders during film productions I was involved in before I recently decided to take a specific course with the Luxembourg Aviation Administration (DAC). I got my A1 A3 Open Sub Category licence for low risk flights that is approved by the EASA (EU Aviation Safety Agency) and Santa brought me a DJI Mini. Great!
Beside watching video tutorials of all sorts, I took some coaching with a friend who happens to be a professional drone pilot back in Luxembourg, I produce my own flight logs with an app and I run through checklists before and after almost every flight. I don't engage in dangerous or ambitious flight maneuvers since my only goal is to take aerial landscape photography. Basically, I use my drone as a super tripod. Sorry, fellow action FPV drone pilots! I know how vulgar this might sound to some of you. 😇
Yet, I am pretty sure that this attitude and level of preparation saved me a lot of money these days.
Sunny clear winter day in Madrid where I am spending a few weeks. I know that Spain has amongst the most restrictive laws when it comes to hobby drone flight. The reason is that they stopped distinguishing hobby flights from commercial flights so a pretty strong set of rules apply to just anyone flying any form of UAV/UAS.
Aware of the numerous restrictions in place, I still figure that taking to the air in a remote spot without flying over any person, main street or sensitive infrastructure would probably be acceptable to get some quick shots of the area. The goal was to fly for 15 min max testing a few camera settings since the drone is new - which I also noted in the pre departure log on my phone. I picked a quiet parking spot with a fair stretch of green area that I elected as my starting point.
7 minutes into the flight, a police car approaches, stops and two men in blue step out. One comes straight at me in a determined but calm manner. I immediately explain that my Spanish is not so good but that I will happy to talk after I have safely landed the drone that is hovering some 30m over us at that point. After I land the drone, we have a short chat during which I show him that my intentions are good (showing him my documents, logs and some of my photos) but he insisted on the fact that, basically, almost all of Madrid is a no fly zone for drones. He added that he wanted to congratulate me on how I managed the encounter, landing the drone before interacting and for being well prepared and documented. Fair enough but that will not get me nice photos...
Yes, the outcome is great: no fine for this time, I could keep my drone and my photos (the ones in the beginning of this post) but this guy knew what he was talking about (maybe a drone pilot himself) and it seems they use some sort of tracker to actively track down drones that are deployed around their patrol car. I appreciate the proactive attitude but I am a bit disappointed that I will hardly be able to use my drone in Madrid.
General restrictions for flying drones in Spain
Spanish laws for drones under 250 gr.