A total of 2,700 professional flights with drones were carried out at the Netherlands RPAS Test Centre (NRTC) in Flevoland province in 2016, twice as many as in 2015. The flights concern the different activities that take place at NRTC: flying lessons for the professional Remotely Piloted Aircraft Licence (RPA-L), the airworthiness testing of aircraft and test flights for the development and onward development of new drones. The test centre has been operational for years and has seen a major increase in its activities, from 170 flights in 2014, via 1,300 flights in 2015 to 2,700 flights in 2016.
NRTC is part of NLR-Netherlands Aerospace Centre. It is a drone test site that meets all government requirements. NLR is also the first officially recognised training centre for drone licences in the Netherlands.
The airspace above NRTC is closed to other users and its land is also a closed area. Flights in Dutch airspace are in principle allowed only with aircraft and by pilots that fully satisfy all legal requirements. NRTC holds more extensive approvals in that flights may also take place there with prototypes that do not yet meet all requirements. NRTC is thus meeting a strong need for the development of drones and their technology, such as detect-and-avoid sensors designed to prevent drones coming too close to other air traffic. Through its operations NRTC is supporting the development and use of drones in the Netherlands, facilitating their safe integration in civil airspace and acting as a one-stop-shop for the drone sector.
Work is in progress elsewhere in the Netherlands on creating test sites that meet the legal requirements. NLR is playing a facilitating role in this and is using its acquired knowledge and experience to support start-up test sites. With its drone expertise, NLR is building further upon its overarching knowledge of the entire aerospace chain and on its extensive test and research facilities.