Complying with the strict drone law?

The Hungarian construction industry already has the solution!

The collaboration between Duna Aszfalt and GeoLayer is a real-life example of a major construction company adhering to strict drone regulations while efficiently performing key road construction drone flights. In fact, rather than being at a disadvantage, it has gained many additional benefits from an in-house corporate system built on LUC certification.

An exemplary collaboration between Duna Aszfalt Zrt. and GeoLayer Kft. has been launched, enabling the market-leading civil engineering company to fully comply with the strict drone regulations that came into force last January. We discussed the details of the project launched by the two companies with Robert Bors, Managing Director of GeoLayer and Beatrix Szabó, Head of the BIM Division of Duna Aszfalt at the Hungarian construction group’s headquarters in Budapest.

The importance of the project lies in the fact that the regulations created for the use of drones pose very serious challenges for all users. There is a widespread perception that the regulations are too strict and that compliance is near impossible, so many people have problems complying with them.

The breakthrough was delivered by a 250-page LUC manual and certificate

However, the activity of GeoLayer Kft. so far proves that there is a viable solution that allows the user to guarantee flight safety and at the same time to carry out his daily tasks with the help of various drone devices. This is based on the LUC certificate obtained by the Hungarian company, which is the only one in Hungary, although even in Europe very few companies have developed a similar manual.

“It’s a Light UAS Operator Certificate to be exact,” explains Róbert Bors.

” The point is that the 12 drone operations specified in it can be authorised by our company under its own authority, of course with maximum safety standards. Thanks to this, we do not need to apply for operational authorisations during the work.”

Bors Róbert

The importance of the more than 250-page document is therefore enormous, as the biggest problem currently facing drone operations is the length of time it takes to obtain permits for flights requiring authorization.

This is how a functional framework was developed

Now we can also test how the facility provided by GeoLayer can work in everyday life: this is demonstrated by the cooperation agreement concluded between Duna Aszfalt and the service provider. “Under the current regulations, we would have to apply for an operating licence for operations in this category, which would take an extremely long time to process.” – explains Beatrix Szabó. “This is unthinkable in the construction industry, where deadlines are tight. However, thanks to this collaboration, GeoLayer is allowing our flights, resulting in a workable framework.”

Szabó Beatrix

To ensure that the security and risk-free environment targeted by the current legislation can be achieved, GeoLayer’s expert service is a guarantee. “Before each flight, Duna Aszfalt indicates to us where they would like to fly, and we examine every aspect of the conditions in which they can safely carry out the operation in the area,” – reveals Róbert Bors.

You’d be surprised at all the things you need to observe to fly safely

Another important point of the cooperation is that the drone pilots of the large construction company are trained according to the criteria of the GeoLayer LUC manual. “So if the pilots follow our instructions, we can guarantee that the operation can be carried out properly.”

These instructions can apply to a wide variety of details: there may also be a need to deploy more observers, to set up an emergency landing site or to maintain a rota of the areas flown over. Also a mandatory element of the operation is the documentation compiled at the end of the flight, which is also compiled by GeoLayer – this can be requested by the authority at any time.

The executive summarises,

Duna Aszfalt has already done what no one else in the market has managed to do so far: “They conduct their own operations in a fully legal manner, so that they do not have any additional burden and can even gain additional benefits.”

Regular training and maintenance mean great progress too

One of these additional benefits is that, thanks to the framework contract, GeoLayer will also provide training at Duna Aszfalt. “Pilots receive refresher training every six months, where they learn about the different types of drones, among other things,” – points out Beatrix Szabó.

Another important element of the system is continuous status monitoring and maintenance. “This is a major improvement compared to the current situation, because it is not very common in Hungary today to carry out the required maintenance of drones. Users are generally not even aware of the regularity with which they should be done.”

Róbert Bors adds that GeoLayer also carries out follow-up analyses to check whether the flights have met the required professional criteria.

“On this basis, not only the pilots but also the manual itself will be subject to continuous improvement, which is mandatory under the terms of the manual.”

Parachute use is mandatory within built-up areas

The LUC manual is designed for the specific drone category, within which there are three safety categories. “In order to be able to authorise a flight, we have to design its parameters so that it falls into the so-called SAIL II category,” – explains Róbert Bors. “High-risk flights of SAIL III or above are beyond our scope and therefore we can no longer authorise them.” In the latter case, special rules apply not only to pilots and training, but also to drones.

Accordingly, GeoLayer’s work is all about, among other things, continuously reducing risk. “This is ensured by the so-called SORA risk analysis method, identifying and mitigating risks on the ground and in the air.” One way to reduce the risk is using a manually activated parachute. “Its use is obligatory within inhabited areas, which excludes the possibility of personal injury.”

As airspace becomes more and more crowded, the importance of regulated traffic is increasing

The cooperation between the two companies is also exemplary because – as indicated above – experience so far has shown that the drone legislation that came into force last year has been subject to a lot of criticism, with stakeholders arguing for changes to the law rather than discussing the solutions required to adapt it.

“We admit that the regulation is not perfect, for example, I don’t think it’s ideal that the ad hoc airspace permit has to be submitted 30 days before the flight,” – argues Róbert Bors. “However, we emphasise that it is possible to comply with the law. Obviously it takes a lot of preparation and energy, but here is a working example that we have put together with Duna Aszfalt.”

It must also be taken into account that Hungary wants to be at the forefront of airspace regulation. To facilitate this, the Hungarian Drone Coalition was established last July, with the stated aim of supporting companies operating in the field of unmanned aircraft applications to increase their competitiveness.

However, when considering the legislation, it is also worth bearing in mind that it is not the law itself that is important, but what it is intended to achieve: the total safety of drone operators, the devices and everyone around the flight. ” This is an aspect that is also very important for Duna Aszfalt” – confirms Beatrix Szabó. “Strengthening job security is also our own internal demand.” She adds that the new system has also been integrated into the company’s health and safety regulations. “This is also important because the Hungarian state is determined to become a major drone power – as demonstrated by the establishment of the Hungarian Drone Coalition – and the number of these devices in the airspace is expected to increase, further increasing the risk.”

There is also potential for improvement in the information needed to prepare

However, Beatrix Szabó also points out that the cooperation with GeoLayer is much more complex than many people would think. “I’ve spoken to a lot of drone operators, and what I’ve found is that they generally think drone flying is just a matter of getting an airspace permit and then everything is all straight from there. But real preparation is much more than that.” Róbert Bors confirms the same: “The main problem in Hungary today is that there is a lack of information to prepare. In order to get the picture, you have to read a long piece of legislation, which is not clear – nobody will make the effort.”

He adds that users are not even aware of the basics, such as the need for an airspace licence and an operations licence for certain categories. “Moreover, the latter is not the same as operational reporting. It is true that today we have reached the point where the authority writes on the notifier that an operating licence is compulsory, but nobody knows what this entails and how it can be solved. But there are a lot of things needed for that.”

Some extra work per flight: much cheaper than classic licensing

It’s also a challenge to manage all of this because everything has to be spelled out in the documents, and if there are any changes – either to the workspace or to the equipment – the documents have to be resubmitted, the permits have to be re-applied for. “The LUC, on the other hand, allows us to modify the parameters in a flexible way” – says Beatrix Szabó. She adds that, overall, the company can now efficiently manage a level of administration that was previously considered almost impossible to manage under the law. “To achieve this, of course, we have to do extra administrative and other work per flight.”

She adds that if they sum up all this extra work, they are probably better off than if they had to go through the licensing procedures at the offices. “Moreover, the outcome of the latter is uncertain and involves a lot of nervous tension, while the current process is predictable and predictable.” This is also significant because a leading road construction company has so many projects requiring drones at the same time that the various approval processes become overwhelming after a while, taking up the time and attention of many people.

The cooperation also includes biannual refresher training and mandatory maintenance of the drone fleet. “These are mandatory anyway, so we benefit from the fact that we can do them in an organised way thanks to GeoLayer” – said Beatrix Szabó.

“A particular advantage is the transparency: we can always check when, with which machine, and which colleague was working. We can also see which pilots have what licence, and what condition or type of machines we have.”

Among other things, this automates the accounting of the validity period of pilot licences or drone insurance and provides timely notifications to the pilots concerned.

How regular droning works in everyday life

GeoLayer works closely with the company on a day-to-day basis, using a management software that incorporates both scheduled regular and ad hoc flights planned in advance by Duna Aszfalt. “In this application, all the company has to do is designate the areas of operation where it wants to work, specifying the time period, the pilots and observers to be delegated” – takes over Róbert Bors.

“From these, we analyse the risks of a given project and design a complete operation, describing where the people involved need to be located, what equipment they can fly with and what they need to comply with.”

He adds that an operation crossing a busy road, for example, poses a particular risk, as the vehicles passing through are considered as a crowd in terms of risk.

Persons concerned will receive an electronic copy of the specifications described above and will be able to review them before boarding. “They also have to fill in the flight checklist mentioned by Beatrix before and after the operation. After the operation, they upload the flight log files into the system, so we can analyse the operation and prepare the documentation.”

The LUC also provides a good basis for working abroad

The operational documentation related to flights is managed by GeoLayer and stored for several years. “On this basis, for example, if the police come out on the basis of a report from a member of the public, they will not go to Duna Aszfalt, but to us, because we authorised the operation. On the other hand, we can immediately hand over the complete documentation to them, which shows that the work was carried out in accordance with the law. And if it turns out that we have authorised something that we should not have done, we are responsible for it.”

Another advantage is that the LUC certificate provided by GeoLayer is valid in all countries of the European Union, so it can help Duna Aszfalt when working abroad.

In the new system, all incidents are investigated

Beatrix Szabó points out an additional advantage: ” In the past, when a minor accident happened with the drone, colleagues didn’t always tell us, saying that the drone would continue to operate as before. Now, on the other hand, they have to report the incident to GeoLayer immediately, we have to take a report, and they decide what to do next.” This ensures that no drone with any minor damage should be in the air, increasing the risk.

The head of Duna Aszfalt’s BIM department also points out the importance of the project from a broader perspective. “It has been repeatedly stated in the Hungarian Drone Coalition that in the world of digitalisation, remote sensing surveys are essential for competitiveness; especially in the case of infrastructure construction. Aerial surveys are one of the most important tools for this.

“For this reason, as a large company, we can’t have the same team of three people everywhere, instead we now have to train some of our colleagues in the field as pilots.”

Interestingly, she mentioned that the high emphasis on the use of drones in industry, including construction, is something that surprises many people – even in professional organisations.

New pilots are trained for each of Duna Aszfalt’s projects

Beatrix Szabó gives an example of the operation described above. “When we receive a new project, we usually want to do aerial surveys there. We assign at least three people from the team to participate in this activity. We link them into the company system with GeoLayer, give them the right training and tools, which guarantees that we’ll have proper flights on that project.”

At the same time, the leader highlights the work of the BIM division under her leadership. “In addition to the drone pilots we have trained, we also have pilots in our department who are specifically trained in drone flying. They spend their full time exclusively on 3D surveys, so they do the large and complex surveys that require professionalism.”

Duna Aszfalt currently employs around 20 drone pilots, although this number is set to rise steadily.

An important circumstance is that the training received from GeoLayer at Duna Aszfalt only gives a licence in this internal company system. “In another company, this qualification is not valid, as it is not a general drone licence, it only ensures proper operation under the conditions we have defined” – points out Róbert Bors. “At the same time, the knowledge gained here is obviously a good foundation for wherever the professional goes in the future.”

Photos: Kércz Viktor és Dernovics Tamás/
Translation: Kovács Péter/

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