Drone operators who want to become active in the Specific category will pay much more money in the Netherlands for the necessary permits and authorizations than in Belgium. This is evident from figures published by the Belgian transport ministry, set against the intended Dutch tariffs. For example, the issue of a LUC permit in Belgium will soon cost 1,500 euros, while the Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) wants to charge between 3,358 to 6,528 euros for this.

Authorizations and permits

Unlike the Open category, drone operations in the Specific category may only be performed by an operator who has the correct permits or authorizations. This may include authorizations based on one of the European standard scenarios or permits based on a predefined or self-prepared risk analysis (PDRA and SORA), or the issuance of a LUC permit, which allows an operator to draw up and properly set up SORAs themselves approve.

The rates for handling applications for issuing such authorisations and exemptions are set by the aviation authorities in the various European Member States. So there is no question of harmonised European tariffs. But it turns out that will lead to significant cost differences.

Cost comparison

The comparison overview below was prepared by Paul Oostveen, on the forum DronePilots.nl. The rates are from the Belgian official gazette in question and the proposed Dutch Regulations unmanned aircraft, which was recently published for consultation.

DescriptionPrice BelgiumPrice Netherlands
Declaration standard scenario, including supervision€150, – per year€453, – one-time
release of operating licence PDRA€500, – €1245, – up to 3358, – (depending on risk level)
Issuing operating licence SORA€500, –€2305, – to 6528, – (depending on risk level) Modification of
operating licence PDRA/SORA€150, –€717, – to 1245, – ( depending on risk level)
Acceptance authorization from other Member State€250, –€453, –
Supervision of operating licence (from 2nd year)€150, – per yearincluded?
Issuing certificate operator LUC€1500, –€3358, – up to 6528, – (depending on risk level)
Supervision of holder LUC (from 2nd year)€750, – per yearincluded?

Major differences

Remarkably, the differences are significant. The costs in the Netherlands are sometimes a factor of 7 (!) higher than in Belgium. On the other hand, the costs for supervision in the Netherlands are seemingly included, while in Belgium they are calculated separately and therefore return annually. Oostveen: “But then you still have to fly at a SORA for 12 to 40 years (depending on the risk level and without making any change) before the NL rate could be more favourable. The threshold for a minor change to your SORA in the Netherlands is also much higher.”

During the consultation, there was already a lot of criticism of the high costs that the ILT wants to charge for handling licence applications. Oostveen: “The Dutch rates seemed to me quite on the high side, the Belgian prices seem to confirm that. I hope that the final tariffs in the Netherlands, which will be published soon, will be more favourable so that the thresholds for professional drone flights do not become unnecessarily high in our country.”

“Bulgarian route”

The large cost differences may lead to unfair competition. Wiebe de Jager: “A ‘Bulgarian route’ has been feared in the drone sector for some time, whereby operators in certain countries can obtain their Specific papers very cheaply and then fly in the Netherlands at lower rates than Dutch operators can offer. The high costs that the ILT wants to charge for handling permits do not contribute to this.”

A more or less similar situation has already arisen in the Open category. For example, it is possible to obtain the EU drone certificate A1/A3 free of charge via Ireland, while training institutions in the Netherlands, together with the RDW, charge costs for this.