Israel’s Ministry of Communications Opens the Floodgates to 5.8GHz-based Drones, Adv. Naama Margolis

In recent years, Israeli drone operators and manufacturers have voiced mounting frustration over Israel’s sweeping prohibition on the use of civilian drones that utilize the 5.8 GHz frequency. Until now, Israel’s military has dominated the 5.8GHz frequency and all civilian uses were off limits. This limitation effectively closed the Israeli market to many cost-effective drone models with advanced capabilities. In addition, Israeli companies looking to compete globally were limited in their ability to fully use Israel as a proving ground. Moreover, this regulatory barrier deterred leading drone companies from establishing an Israeli presence and slowed local technological advances. 

However, years of lobbying by the drone industry have finally yielded the long-awaited result.

On December 28, 2020 the Ministry of Communications published a draft of the Wireless Telegraph Regulations (Modification Certificates) – 5781 – 2020 (the “Regulations”) which will effectively create a process for permitting the manufacture, import and outdoor use of drones utilizing the 5.8GHz frequency. The Regulations are not only aimed at opening up new opportunities for the drone industry: rather, they aim to facilitate and streamline the import of a wide array of advanced wireless devices. This is a general step by the Ministry of Communications toward supporting the use of IoT devices, smart cities, advanced agriculture, and similar activities whose success hinges on a modern regulatory framework for regulating wireless devices.

The Ministry of Communications has taken a risk-based approach to regulating 5.8GHz-based drones by creating a fairly simple process both for personal imports as well as for nonrecurring imports, while requiring a more rigorous process for obtaining a ‘modification certificate’ for mass imports and manufacture. Creating different processes commensurate with the level of risk will allow regulators to focus their attention on the import activities which stand to have a significant domestic effect, while giving local manufacturers and operators a faster channel for imports of small batches aimed at market research and testing. The Regulations will add documentation and marking requirements, as well as an obligation to inform consumers of applicable use limitations.  Modification certificates granted to commercial importers and manufacturers will, in general, remain valid for a two-year period.  There will be no limit to the number of drones that may be imported or manufactured under a ‘modification certificate’, once granted, nor does the Regulation impose an application fee for the modification certificates.

The current draft is open for comments until January 18, 2021.  If approved, the draft Regulations will go into effect on April 1, 2021: Here’s hoping this is no April Fools’ Day joke. 

For more information on the Regulation and the public comment process see: https://www.gov.il/en/departments/news/03012021.

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