Regulatory alert: Amendment of the Air Traffic Act of Hungary regarding the regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles

On December 16, 2020, the Hungarian Parliament passed the amended Air Traffic Act of Hungary regarding the regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) fulfilling EU harmonization requirements, mainly affecting drone users. The amendment was proposed by the Minister of Technology and Innovation.

The legislation – in line with the EU requirements – aims to enhance airspace safety by introducing more specific and modern regulation for UAVs and operators.

The legislation differentiates toy and other UAVs. Toy UAVs are UAVs with maximum 120 g take-off weight, not equipped with a recording device and unable to operate beyond a 100 meter radius perimeter of the operator. The rules summarized below are generally not applicable to toy UAVs although detailed definitions differentiating hobby and professional operators remain to be established.

The Air Traffic Authority of Hungary will maintain a register of UAVs and their operators. Only registered UAVs will be allowed to operate in Hungarian airspace. Aerial operations must be registered at least 10 days in advance.

The Minister will regulate areas where flying UAVs is prohibited or restricted. In general, flying above inhabited areas will be prohibited to respect privacy and improve airspace safety and any exception will require the prior permit of the Airspace Authority of the Hungarian Military. The Minister will also issue regulations on applicable training and examination requirements for UAVs operators.

From July 31, 2021, operators will also be required to use an application or a website to activate and reserve the airspace for their UAV operations. The application and the website is developed by HungaroControl Zrt., the company responsible for Hungarian airspace air traffic control. The aim is to increase the lawful and accountable usage and control of airspace and disseminate information on current airspace availability or restrictions. As of December 2020, the application is already available to download, however, it is not fully functional yet.

The regulation gives the appointed authorities the right to use UAV detection devices and, where necessary, to order operators to cease airspace activities or to use signal jammers or other ways to ground unauthorized UAVs.

The regulation introduces sanctions for the unlawful operation of UAVs. If an unlawful operation does not qualify as an infringement or crime, the operator can be fined up to HUF 100.000.000 (approx. EUR 280.000). A new restriction imposed on operators is the taking of pictures or making audio recordings of private properties without consent, or flying over inhabited areas without a permit. A newly enacted crime is the unauthorized surveillance of a private property with UAVs and making the data thereby obtained publicly available.

UAVs used for state and military activities will be regulated separately.

Most of the above rules will be effective as of January 1, 2021 (unless otherwise stated).

More details are expected when the Minister will issue detailed regulations.

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Marcell Szőnyi

About Marcell Szőnyi

Marcell Szőnyi is a partner in Dentons’ Budapest office. He focuses primarily on the areas of real estate, corporate and financing transactional work, and commercial contracts. He has been involved in numerous acquisitions and disposals and high-value commercial contracts, as well as IP work. He is also a pioneering expert and an enthusiast advocate of artificial intelligence and automated driving technologies, and as such an active member of Dentons’ Global Autonomous Vehicle services group.

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