Remotely piloted aircraft (UAS/RPAS/Drone) - frequencies and licences

Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) are radio equipment and therefore subject to the same requirements as other radio equipment. European regulations provide that they must bear a declaration of conformity and a CE marking. The regulations on wireless devices and their use vary from country to country and it is possible that devices sold in foreign online stores generate interference in Finland, for instance. Devices should not interfere with other radio equipment when their frequencies and radiated power are correct.

FICORA steers and supervises the use of radio spectrum in Finland. By planning the use of spectrum, FICORA aims to ensure that sufficient radio frequencies, that are as interference-free as possible, are available to radio systems.

Remotely piloted, or radio-controlled (rc), model aircraft and copters as well as their transmitters and receivers are classified as radio equipment. Therefore they must meet the requirements set for radio equipment.

Radio frequencies for RPA

Command and control links

A remotely piloted model aircraft, copter or other aircraft is controlled wirelessly mainly from the ground. The flight control may be a radio transmitter or a more complex control and command station with a video display. The remote pilot, who is on the ground, can control the aircraft using command and control links and receive real-time information about the aircraft systems, such as the rotational speed of motors.

The most commonly used frequencies for RPA are the ones for licence-exempt radio equipment:

  • 2400.000–2483.500 MHz, in which case the transmitter's effective radiated power is either
    • ≤100 mW EIRP, if the applicable standard is EN 300 328 on the digital wideband data transmission equipment (WAS), or
    • ≤10 mW EIRP, if the applicable standard is EN 300 440 on general short range devices (SRD);
  • 5470.000-5725.000 MHz, in which case the transmitter's effective radiated power is ≤ 1 W EIRP and the power spectral density of transmission is ≤ 50 mW/1 MHz EIRP. The applicable standard is EN 301 893 on RLAN equipment.
  • 5725.000–5875.000 MHz, in which case the transmitter's effective radiated power is ≤25 mW EIRP and the applicable standard is EN 300 440 on general SRD.

The frequency band for licence-exempt analogue radio equipment is 34.995–35.225 MHz (effective radiated power ≤ 100 mW ERP and applicable standard EN 300 220 on SRD).

The frequency band 5030–5091 MHz is, according to the International Telecommunication Union ITU, allocated to the command and control of unmanned aircraft in passenger and cargo traffic and therefore it cannot be used for controlling RPA.

Payload frequencies

Payload refers to other radio equipment than those used for command and control links. The most common payload device is a camera that can send real-time video feed from the aircraft to the ground. A thermographic camera or different measuring equipment may also be included in the payload.

Frequency bands 2400.000–2483.500 MHz, 5470.000–5725.000 MHz and 5725.000–5875.000 MHz may be used for the payload devices of an aircraft in addition to command and control links.

The frequency 1320 MHz is only meant for sending video feed from the aircraft to the ground. Using this frequency requires a radio licence that can only be obtained for a fixed period.

Apply for a radio licence via our e-services

Use of mobile network frequencies

In principle, it is not allowed to use mobile network terminals with GSM/UMTS/LTE features on board an airborne aircraft. However, with the consent of mobile operators, FICORA may exceptionally grant a radio licence that enables using such terminal when flying at low altitudes. The mobile network frequencies specified in the radio licence may be used for command and control links, payload connections or calls.

Apply for a radio licence via our e-services

Search for new frequencies for command and control links

There are no frequencies reserved for RPA command and control links yet that would allow higher levels of radiated power than mentioned above. The process of determining such frequencies has begun in Europe. The aim is to find frequencies harmonised throughout Europe which device manufacturers and importers could use for their products to be brought on the markets. This would provide the users of the frequencies a long-term solution enabling them to plan and carry out operations in the long run.

Short-term test licences are possible

FICORA may grant short-term test licences for tests and trials of RPA. FICORA assesses case-by-case whether a radio licence may be granted for the requested frequencies.

Apply for a radio licence via our e-services

Trafi is the civil aviation authority in Finland

The Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi, is responsible for ensuring that air transport is safe and as environmentally friendly as possible and for promoting the facilitation and flow of air traffic. Trafi considers aviation issues from the perspective of airline passengers, airlines, private pilots and airport operators.

Trafi's Regulation OPS M1-32 on the use of remotely piloted aircraft and model aircraft entered into force on 9 October 2015.

More information on unmanned aviation and Regulation OPS M1-32 is available on Trafi's website

Key words: Spectrum, Conformity

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