Are d-flight maps accurate?
The d-flight maps, on the fly zones, available on the d-flight portal should always provide complete and exhaustive information to drone pilots about the areas where it is possible to fly.
In practice this is not the case as there are areas – whose unofficial classification is R – Restricted, or regulated -, but many of these are by no means reported as such. Which? The National Parks.
So let’s see how d-flight classifies National Parks and what authorization procedure to follow to fly in a National Park as a non-professional pilot.
D-flight maps and Italian National Parks
In Italy there are 26 National Parks, located throughout the peninsula from North to South, including the islands.
The list – in evolution as there are 5 additional parks in progress – currently includes the following Parks (in alphabetical order):
- National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise
- Alta Murgia National Park
- Lucano Apennine National Park – Val d’Agri-Lagonegrese
- National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines
- National Park of the Archipelago of La Maddalena
- National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago
- Asinara National Park
- Aspromonte National Park
- National Park of Calabria
- National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni
- Cinque Terre National Park
- Circeo National Park
- National Park of the Belluno Dolomites
- National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, Monte Falterona and Campigna
- Gargano National Park
- Gran Paradiso National Park
- Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park
- National Park of the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu
- Majella National Park
- Sibillini Mountains National Park
- National Park of the island of Pantelleria
- Pollino National Park
- Sila National Park
- Stelvio National Park
- Val Grande National Park
- Vesuvius National Park.
Map of Italian National Parks – Source Ministry of the Environment
The aforementioned Parks were established between 1922 and 2016, and cover an area of over 1,600,000 hectares (16,000 km²), which correspond to approximately 5.3% of the Italian national territory, therefore a non-negligible portion of the our territory.
Among these, the largest by extension, as a single park, is the Cilento National Park with an area of 178,172 hectares, followed by the Pollino National Park with 171,132 hectares.
Evidently a little piece of stuff for d-flight, so much so that for these two Parks, and several others of those listed, no flight restrictions are at all highlighted on the d-flight maps.
Seeing is believing! At coordinates N 39° 16 ’25 “- E 16° 02′ 35”, corresponding to the Novacco plateau, in the heart of the Pollino Park, drone flights are permitted in accordance with the ATM-09 circular.
In the Cilento Park at coordinates N 40° 12 ’06 “- E 15° 22′ 55” the same is allowed to fly as per ATM-09 circular.
On the other hand, in the Abruzzo National Park, Civitella Alfedena, also known for the museum and the wildlife park dedicated to the wolf, coordinates N 41° 46 ’47 “- E 13° 55′ 26”, the flight with drones is forbidden for the purpose as the pop-up d-flight states “to protect the environment of certain protected areas within nature reserves”. The pop-up of the d-flight map also refers to the note AIP ENR 220.127.116.11-1.
Hence two questions arise:
- are National Parks all the same, i.e. are they all no-fly zones, or is it a discretionary aspect of d-flight?
- with what level of reliability can d-flight maps be taken as an official reference for a drone pilot?
Flying in a park (note that it is also possible to define it as a drone operation area !!), involves penalties and not just, so d-flight should make an effort and provide a better service if it wants its maps to be taken as a reference by the drone pilots.
Flying with the drone in a Italian National Park
Flying in a Italian National Park, we said, is not allowed, unless you have obtained a specific authorization from the Park Authority. So let’s see the necessary permissions to fly in a National Park.
Authorization request to the Park Authority
First of all, an authorization request must be sent, via PEC, to the Management of the Park where the flight is to be performed. The list of directions of the Italian National Parks is available at this link (last update 2014), or at this link (last update 2019).
The request to be sent must contain the following information:
- Applicant’s personal data
- Name and surname of the pilot
- Residence and domicile
- Phone number
- Email address and/or PEC
- Description of the purpose and activities
- Purpose of the flight (photo/video shooting for …)
- Description of places, dates of the flight
- Indication of the places affected by the flight activity
- Date of activity and time interval with number of landings and take-offs
- Calendar days if you are applying for a permit for several days
- About the drone
- Model of the drone used (MTOW) and its registration on the d-flight portal
- Pilot information
- Reference to the pilotage certificate obtained
- Drone insurance identified code, validity and expiration.
With reference to the purpose of the flight, it is good to be as clear as possible, indicating for example that these are photos and videos for hobby and / or personal non-profit use, or for a personal study activity on the area, etc. Make yourself available to share the material captured via drone with the Park Authority.
It is also good that you highlight in your request, that during the flight with drone you will carefully avoid causing danger or disturbance to natural fauna or to that introduced by man (flocks, grazing cattle, etc.), that you will not fly over gatherings of people where present and that you will respect the limits and flight rules imposed by your pilot certificate “Non-Critical Operations”.
In consideration of the response times from the park authority and the consequent bureaucracy (posting of the request for 15 days on the park’s praetorian notice board, etc.), it is advisable to submit the request at least 60-70 days before the date scheduled for the flight, perhaps requesting a time slot “from … to …” to cover the inevitable jokes of the weather.
Approval will be sent to you via PEC, but it is not excluded that you may have to go to the Park Management to validate the authorization with the affixing of a revenue stamp.
Once this is done, you are at 80% of path!
In theory, through the d-flight maps, you should be able to understand whether or not it is necessary to inform ENAC of your flight. In fact, authorization from ENAC may not be necessary, but given the “random” character with which the d-flight maps report information, it is good to contact the d-flight support at the same time that the application is submitted to the Park Authority to ask for information about it for the area of your interest. If this is necessary, once permission has been obtained from the Park Authority, start the ENAC authorization procedure.
Obligations before flying
Having obtained the authorization to fly from the Park Authority and possibly from ENAC does not mean that you can fly with the drone without fulfilling other obligations.
The authorization granted by the Park generally has prescriptions. The most common are those that require the communication of the flight activity, before it is carried out, both to the Park Authority and to the Forestry Police (Carabinieri Forestali).
Inform the Park Authority
At least a couple of days in advance of the day scheduled for the flight, via certified e-mail, you must notify the park authority of the flight activity.
The email, which will contain both the reference of the authorization issued by the Park, and the possible one from ENAC (to be attached in scanned copy), and must clearly indicate:
- the day and time of the flight
- the flight zone
- the name of the pilot.
Print a copy of the email to attach it to the documentation you will take with you.
Inform the Forestry Police (Carabinieri Forestali)
At the same time as sending the PEC to the Park Authority, again via PEC, sent to the Forest Police (carabinieri Forestali) barracks territorially competent for the Park and to any other Forestry Police barracks, competent for the flight area, communication of the flight activity with drone.
For the PEC addresses of the command of the Forestry Carabinieri competent for the Park and the one competent for the area where the flight will take place, it is advisable to ask directly to the Park Authority.
The email, which will contain both the reference of the authorization issued by the Park Authority, and the possible one of ENAC (to be attached as scanned copies), and must clearly indicate:
- the day and time of the flight
- the flight zone
- the name of the pilot.
It is good practice to reiterate your intention to avoid causing danger or disturbance to natural or man-made fauna (flocks, grazing cattle, etc.). Once this is done, print a copy and include it in the documentation you will carry with you.
Documentation to bring with you
Since the pilot of an amateur drone must rightly respect the rules, you will have to bring with you a copy of the documents relating to the drone, your pilot certificate and the authorizations obtained to fly in the Park.
Documents to bring:
- Copy of RC insurance certificate
- QR code (attached to the drone)
- User manual of the drone
- Pilot license “Non-Critical Operations”
- Pilot identity documents
- Authorization obtained from the Park Authority
- ENAC clearance (if necessary)
- Copy of the information PEC email sent to the Park Authority
- Copy of email-certified e-mail sent to the competent Forestry Carabinieri barracks
Keep in mind that the Forestry Carabinieri could visit you!
Furthermore, even if it is not required for amateur drone pilots, it is good practice in this case to wear the yellow jacket with the words “APR(UAS) pilot”, so that it can be easily identified if necessary.
Flying in a National Park is a truly unique experience as it is possible to grasp the unknown aspects of these wonderful natural oases from above.
However, flying with a drone in a National Park is not easy, but not impossible.
On the basis of personal experience, I recommend to approach the necessary authorizations in a pragmatic way, and to take a look at the d-flight maps with a critical eye in order not to incur dangerous non-compliance, given the current non-total compliance of the maps with the rules of the air provided for certain areas of our territory.
Note regarding the images: The photo of the cover image was made by 4mydrone (location Malevento path Pollino National Park), as well as the photo in the article (Pollino – Pini Loricati). The image relating to the map of the Italian National Parks is taken from the website of the Ministry of the Environment which is the legitimate owner. The use of images is exclusively for the purpose of better understanding the contents of the article.
Last Updated on/Ultimo aggiornamento – 19/09/2020