How to fly a drone in Portugal (Lisbon & Sintra) Legally!! (Part 3)

How to fly a drone in Portugal (Lisbon & Sintra) Legally!! (Part 3)


This is the 3rd and final part of how to get the necessary permissions to fly a camera drone legally in Portugal specifically Lisbon and Sintra.

Read Part 1 here so you can get to this step before proceeding.

Read Part 2 here to learn how to submit area applications.

So my final permissions looked like this, you should download the PDF file with the official notice of your flying / surveying permission and GPS coordinates of the area :-

Here is what my webmail looked like after a morning of application processing, note that they have reduced the requested max altitude from the 40m I requested to 30m.

And final here is what a permission pdf looks like :

This should be printed and kept with you.

This is how the areas granted permission in Lisbon look like on Google Earth :

The permissions have been granted and we can fly. Make sure you have hard copies of your permissions with you, I also printed out clear map images showing the areas from the KML files.

Finishing what we started

Where to start with concluding this. Let’s talk about the actual process.

The AAN website works well, and the English is good for us non-Portuguese speakers, there are areas where the translation is missing or confusing but nothing that will cause difficulty.

One area which was hard work was defining areas (pun intended!) – This could be improved to highlight the area being defined as you define it. This is quite important as you do not have an opportunity to review the area before submitting – so you have to get it correct before hitting save – once submitted there is no way of editing and correcting mistakes.

Systems they have in place seems to make use of KML files, so even having an KML import function for the area defining would help.

The process itself was pretty simple, and to give praise to AAN – very efficient.

I joked in part 2 about the speed of processing – in reality I noticed that the applications I submitted were given a priority status, closer you are to the requested flight dates higher priority was assigned – so when I submitted areas where the flight dates were only 6 days out they were flagged as ‘Very Urgent’.

This shows that the process is of proper regulation and due process, however for tourists and hobby photographers like myself it has its down sides.

As a person who has never been to Lisbon, and not sure what areas or places will capture my interest enough to launch the drone and capture some video. Area permissions needed to be large enough to give me the most flexibility and freedom to actually fly and capture something interesting.

Responsible drone pilots also need to make sure the places are suitable for drone flying! which is just not possible from maps and satelite images. Nothing beats boots on the ground here!

My approach was to submit one large area covering the entire zone of my visit, and this was a mistake on my part.

Then I reduced this area to a couple of zones of around 2-3km2 in size, but again due to sensitive nature of the locations it was denied, maybe my areas included embassy’s, police stations, etc. – the criteria is not known, so were the areas sensitive or the areas requested too large!

Once I focused on exact tourist sites I was likely to visit the permission was forthcoming, so I felt it was not so much the location but the area size requested which was blocking my initial requests.

My advice for anyone doing this, research your visit and define small areas, as many as necessary to give you some flexibility, and you are very likely to be granted permission. You also have to think outside of the box, one area I choose, not so much to film the actual location, but to get a nice panoramic shot of Lisbon itself.

With Sintra, again my approach was to create one large area, but this was rejected with a note about area size. Once I reduced this to a couple of small areas near the coast permission was granted. I also created an area near Sintra town close to some of the tourist sites, again permission was granted after it was referred for advice from the Portuguese Air Force.

While I got permission from the AAN for aerial surveillance, there are several other organisations you might need to contact to get permission.

One of them is the National Parks, as you will need permission to over fly national parks – my understanding of this process is that it is done via email. They email you a form which you state purpose of the flight and how the images/video will be used, and you also need to include your permission from AAN.

The Coast Guard are the other government department you may need to contact – these guys however expect you to pay a large amount of money for permission to fly from anywhere within their domain of control i.e. tidal areas like beaches. However from my understanding this permission is only required if you are controlling your aircraft from these areas including take off & landing. So no permission is required to over fly said areas, as I understand it!

Lastly remember copyright and image rights, so if the images/videos are going to be used for commercial purposes you may need to get permission from the various heritage and cultural government departments which look after the historic buildings and sites, this is pretty similar to most places around the world!

Conclusion

My trip was completed with no issues – had no problems flying the drone. It was very busy with other tourists, but I always managed to find a quiet corner somewhere to launch from and not draw too much attention to myself.

Hand launching and landing really does help in these situations (which the Parrot Anafi does brilliantly!).

One of the areas in Lisbon around Belem Tower, had an helicopter which was flying past every few minutes, so I was mindful to stay within my AGL – the helicopter was quite low I would say around 150m AGL. Sintra air space was quite busy with air traffic – few single engine planes, and a couple of air force planes, again I made sure I was well within the AGL specified on the permissions.

If you are in to Drones and visiting Portugal – do it. Fly Safe!

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