Spain ends 2023 with more than 94.000 drone operators registered with AESA

  • - The technological development and revitalisation of the sector foresee more complex UAS operations in the near future.
  • - Andalusia, the Community of Madrid and Catalonia remain the autonomous communities with the highest number of registered operators, followed by the Valencian Community, Castilla y León, Galicia and the Canary Islands.
  • - In training UAS pilots, AESA has issued 182.867 certificates to carry out operations with UAS and, currently, has registered 508 practical training entities to operate in national standard scenarios.
  • - In a specific category, EASA has registered 9,367 unmanned aircraft, 30 % more than at the end of 2022.
  • - As of 1 January 2024, new requirements such as class marking and the direct remote identification system (DRI) have come into application.

Monday, January 22, 2024


Madrid, 22 January 2024 (AESA)

The State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) takes stock of the drone sector of 2023 with the registration of 94.033 UAS operators, 32 % more than 2022.

This figure reflects the exponential growth of the drone sector in Spain after the entry into force of the European UAS regulations (Regulations 2019/947 and 2019/945) in January 2021. This rule affects all drones, regardless of their recreational or professional use or their size/weight. In addition, registration as an operator is required if a number of requirements are met and the aircraft is declared if it is flying in the medium risk category.

The evolution of this sector is being so favorable, not only because of the mandatory registration of recreational operators, but also because of the dynamisation that this regulation has produced due to its greater flexibility. It is precisely this flexibility, accompanied by technological development and regulatory accompaniment, which envisages more complex operations in the near future.

The three years of validity of the current UAS regulation has been a turning point to promote the sector, previously regulated, since 2018, by the national regulations of Royal Decree 1036/2017, which only required the registration of professional operators.

Of the 94.033 drone operators registered so far in EASA, the autonomous communities with the highest registration are: Andalusia (16.880 registered operators), Community of Madrid (15.804), Catalonia (11.308) and Valencia (9.112):

With regard to the training of pilots, since the entry into force of the new regulations, AESA has issued 182.867 training certificates to carry out operations with UAS. With this, at least 95.620 pilots have received the most basic training for UAS operations (open category A1/A3). In addition, of the total number, EASA has issued around 43.000 theoretical certificates to operate in national standard scenarios (STS-ES). We recall that the practical training to operate in STS-ES is provided by entities recognised by EASA or declared operators.

Also, in terms of training entities, currently AESA has recognised 508 entities that provide the practical training that allows pilots to operate in national standard scenarios, which have declared to have trained during these more than three years 19.000 students (around 9,000 in 2023).

Operations with UAS according to risk

The flight of drones is subject to general rules of operation conditioned, among others, by the weight of the drone, the presence of other people and the proximity to buildings. Operations are divided into three categories:

  • - Open category, lower risk. It does not require authorisation or declaration by the operator, and it is in turn divided into three subcategories: A1, A2 and A3.
  • - Specific category, medium risk. The operator either conforms to a national or European standard scenario, or if the operation requires more complex requirements, an application for operational authorisation must be submitted. For this category the aircraft must be declared. Currently, there are 9,367 aircraft registered with EASA, 30 % more than at the end of 2022. You can consult the list of authorised operators for operations with UAS in a specific category at this link.
  • - Certified category. It encompasses the most risky operations, including transport of dangerous goods at high risk to persons or flight over concentrations of persons, among others. The operator, aircraft and pilot must be certified, and regulations are being developed.

It should be noted that on 1 January 2024 new requirements have been introduced in European regulations, such as the direct remote identification system (DRI) and class markings. From the Agency we have updated all the content of our web section dedicated to drones/UAS so that operators and manufacturers of UAS have all the information in this regard. In addition, in the framework of activities of our 15th Anniversary, on January 24 we have organised an online session to explain this novelty. All information is available on the AESA website.