Once you are approved to fly drones commercially in the UK, you might imagine that like airline pilots that you are then qualified to fly commercially in other countries too, provided that you adhere to the local aviation regulations.
I was informed during my training in the UK that you would have to do the ‘paperwork’ in each country.
It turns out that there is no international agreement on aerial drone permits, so each country is working out their own regulation for this rapidly expanding industry and hobby.
As I do a lot of filming in Spain, particularly in Ibiza, I wanted to be able to combine regular filming for my clients with aerial filming, so I started to investigate.
I got in touch with forums in Spain and spoke to AESA about how to ‘convert’ my CAA UK licence into the Spanish equivalent. After a month or so of research it became clear that the UK licence was not going to be recognised over in Spain, despite various people assuring me that it was ‘in the pipeline’, I could see that may well be a few years coming and by that time we may longer be in Europe anyway!
I am lucky as I speak Spanish and French and I was determined now that I would get the licence one way or the other. I enrolled for an online 6 weeks Spanish RPAS Aviation Course with a company called Cinetic, based in Madrid at the Cuatro Ventos airport.
It tested my Spanish to the max, but once I had passed the online tests, I needed to book in for a three day intensive course in Madrid, followed by a practical test and a theory test. Also a medical. In the UK, there is no requirement for a medical, but in Spain for your drone licence you are subject to the same medical test as an airplane pilot.
The actual training centre was used by pilots as well as drone pilots, so you really get a sense of the airspace that you will be operating in.
Although the course instructor said hello in English and promised to translate if I struggled, as soon as the other 15 candidates were in the room (all Spanish!) he soon got on a roll and I had to concentrate hard to keep up with what was going on.
I was nervous about the medical, as I hadn’t had equivalent testing in the UK and so I wondered if it was going to turn up something I didn’t know about. As they watched my blood going into the analysing machine, I was wishing I hadn’t had a couple of glasses of Rioja with my Tapas the night before!
The practical part of the test was the part I was most comfortable with and they were suitably impressed with my flying skills even though it was on an old DJI Phantom 2, with no monitor!
At the end of the 3rd day I was finally informed that I had passed all the tests and my medical. It is not over then though, a bit like in the UK, once you have your certificate of flying competence you then need to register with AESA and submit an operations manual to them.
This also proved complicated and I ended up needing to enlist the help of my new friends at Cinetic to help get my submission into the hands of the right people at AESA until finally I was given flight approval for commercial drone operations in Spain.