LATVIA – ENVIRONMENT
The Nature Conservation Agency reminds us that the use of drones for filming nature must be carried out in accordance with the rules governing the operation of drones and, in certain cases, only with a permit issued by the Agency.
In recent months, the Agency has received several complaints from social media users about irregularities seen in social media posts. Violations have occurred both when being in conservation areas, where using drones without permission from the Nature Conservation Agency is prohibited, and when using a drone too close to animals.
Drone photography gives us an unprecedented opportunity to see the magnificent natural world from a bird’s eye view, but drone operators should be aware that when operating drones in both natural and urban environments, they are subject to general conditions governing when, where and how drones can be used, as well as special rules for flying in specially protected areas.
“Restrictions on the use of drones have been introduced to protect wildlife from unwanted disturbance. Although people think of drones as small, harmless and silent devices, animals and birds may perceive them as a threat, and their approach can cause unnecessary stress, which can cause animals to leave their habitats or disrupt their migration,” explains Gita Strode, Director of Environmental Protection.
When filming animals, including birds, UAV flight rules must be followed, which state that the pilot should avoid flying over people, vehicles involved in traffic, animals, buildings and civil engineering structures if possible.
In addition, upon request of officials, including national environmental inspectors of the Nature Conservation Agency, the operator of the drone must stop flying immediately and show proof of identity.
When piloting a drone in the vicinity of protected areas, the rules that apply to these areas, namely the individual rules for protected areas, must additionally be observed.
Gauja National Park
It is prohibited to fly (including drones and balloons) below an altitude of 300 metres over the nature reserve and conservation area. Exceptions are flights conducted with the permission of the Nature Conservation Agency for photography and filming, remote sensing and data collection, or in emergency situations such as rescue and search operations.
Kemeri National Park
Flights below an altitude of 300 metres throughout the National Park may only be conducted with the permission of the Nature Conservation Agency, except for national defence, emergency and rescue or search operations.
Pape Nature Park
Flying below an altitude of 500 metres over Lake Pape and Nida bog is prohibited in the reserve from 15 March to 20 September to ensure unhindered nesting and feeding of birds. The ban applies to drones, balloons and other mechanically powered aircraft.
Last year, the Nature Conservation Agency issued 13 permits for the use of drones in protected areas and prosecuted two administrative offence cases for failing to comply with drone regulations.
The rules governing drone flights can be found at www.likumi.lv or on the Civil Aviation Agency’s website uas.caa.lv.