Aug 10, 2015

Harry Denz, head of aviation supervision of Hamburg

Hamburg is the 3rd largest aerospace city after Seattle and Toulouse. What does it mean when the use of UAV in the airspace is increasing rapidly? We talked to Harry Denz, the “Lord of Hamburgs Skys”.

Estimated Article Reading Time: 4 min.

Harry Denz is the head of aviation supervision of Hamburg and also responsible for policy decisions for special permits in the airspace. He decides not only when and if balloons are allowed to start, but also more and more often, about the rise for drones for sports, leisure and commercial purposes.

Mr. Denz, you as the head of the aviation supervision in Hamburg are responsible for the most active area of Germany, regarding the UAV use. What is your opinion about the development in the last 3 years?

Harry Denz: In Hamburg the use of unmanned aviation equipment has grown excessively in recent years. Were there have been only 19 ascension permissions granted for UAV in 2012, there were 142 permissions in 2013 already. In 2014 we had 341 and so far for this year 295 permissions for drones in Hamburg. The fields of application are manifold. Mostly these applications are to create aerial photographs for the media, in the context of film productions, the presentation of real estate and for scientific purposes. It should be noted that an increasing number of commercial vendors want to establish themselves in the UAV market. In addition there is also an expanding number of sales of small systems for the leisure sector, as the drones offered in this segment are offered very cheap and can be used without any significant experience or special skills.

When we speak about UAS and their integration, with which actual problems are you dealing as aviation supervision and authority concerning UAS?

Harry Denz: Our experience shows that in particular the commercial users, which deployed UAV, are using them responsibly and comply with the specific regulations and requirements. This is also true for the majority of amateur users. However, we must increasingly take frequent note that dangerous disruption of air traffic and the risk of third parties in general have increased by UAV’s. The rise of these devices in the direct vicinity of the airport, above mass events or pedestrian areas are examples. In addition, there is an increasing number of citizens who are claiming UAV-users of creating unauthorized footage. The rescue workers complain about drones circling over their areas. The prevention of UAV operations for criminal purposes has been the subject of police considerations.

In your presentation, you will identify problems in the integration. Which solutions utilizes Hamburg to these problems to be safe?

Harry Denz: Due to the increased threat situation within the tight agglomeration of a large city and the controlled airspace around the airport, the aviation supervision of Hamburg granted only individual permits. Such shall be granted only if it is determined that the intended use of the UAV does not lead to a threat for aviation safety or the public order and safety and data protection provisions are not infringed. Before issuing a permit, we therefore examined whether the applicant is capable of the safe use of the UAV. He has to show his skills in a short flight for one of our employees. The drone is checked for its technical suitability. Then there must be a proof of the existence of a sufficient liability insurance as well as a declaration of compliance with data protection regulations.
In the urban area of Hamburg with the airport, the airport Finkenwerder, two sail airfields and numerous helipads at hospitals the safety of air transport is of particular importance. So the German Air traffic control agency (DFS) will be informed about each permission. Local objections or editions are either integrated into the permit or they will not be granted.

The interests of public order and safety are taken into account by specifically defined conditions on the occasion of ascent in the permit.

What kind of problems do you face in the future? How do you see the market developing?

Harry Denz: We are expecting another increasing number of UAV or model airplane users. This also increases the risk of accidents, the violation of data protection laws and the criminal misuse of aviation equipment.

Can there be a secure integration at European level, in your view?

Harry Denz: In the absence of international regulations up till now we only rely on the German air regulations exclusively. These are, in our view – in particular with respect to smaller, non-commercial aircraft – still in need of improvement.

Also with regard to the implementation of a Certification of proficiency of the user and registering the UAV to prosecute crimes or offenses we clearly need additional regulatory means. The Federal Ministry will not rush ahead in anticipation of a European instrument to UAV here. The European Aviation Safety Agency EASA driven regulatory concept is not expected in the short term, however.

In conclusion: What are your expectations for the UASympEx?

Harry Denz: The meeting of the originally involved UAV experts and a large number of experienced users can be a great opportunity to initiate solutions to the undeniably existing problem areas in the use of aircraft equipment.
We are delighted that you will be there.

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