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Flying your drones under the new European Drone regulations

The applicability dates under EU regulation 2019/947 and 2019/945 are:

a) as of 31 December 2020, registration of drone operators and certified drones becomes mandatory;

b) as of 31 December 2020, operations in the ‘specific’ category may be conducted after authorization has been given by the National Aviation Authority;

c) between 31 December 2020 and 1 January 2023, drone users operating drones without class identification labels can continue to operate in the limited category under Article 22 of EU Regulation 2019/947

d) as of January 2022, national authorizations, certificates, and declarations must be fully converted to the new EU System;

e) from 1 January 2022, EASA Member States must make available information on geographical zones for geo-awareness in a digital format harmonized between the EU countries;

d) as of January 2023, all operations in the ‘open category and all drone operators must fully comply with EU Regulation 2019/947 and EU Regulation 2019/945.

 

Nowadays, drones have invaded our skies and public areas: they can be used for a wide range of activities, such as filming events, shooting impressive videos or pictures from the sky, or just for the fun of flying, as they can be bought ready-made and are relatively easy to fly.

In order to respond to this rapid development and the associated potential threats to public safety and security, the European Legislator has asked the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to develop a new regulatory framework to address Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), comprising the various types of aerial drones as well as their control infrastructure.

To understand the EU regulations, we first have to explain two newly introduced terms:

  • Classes: With the CE classes, drones will in the future be subdivided according to their technical characteristics. There are the classes C0, C1, C2, C3, and C4. In the future, drones must be clearly marked with the appropriate class by the manufacturers.

 

  • Categories: Flight maneuvers will in the future be divided into three categories (Open, Specific, and Certified) based on their risk. For the Open category, there are three subcategories: A1, A2, and A3:
  • Low Risk=”Open” Category for small drones (<25kg) operated within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) below 120 meters of altitude and away from the public;
  • Medium Risk=”Specific” for drones (>25 kg) operated at Very Low Level, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and/or above groups of people;
  • High Risk=”Certified” drones derived from aircraft, operated in the controlled airspace and which will have to be logically certified by EASA like all other aircraft developed in the EU.

 

The proposed EASA Regulation on drones is two-fold:

  • A Commission Regulation on rules for the operations of UAS
  • A Commission Delegated Regulation defining technical requirements for UAS authorized to operate in the “Open” category

Drones flying in the “Open” category will not require prior authorization by the competent authority, nor a declaration by the operator before the operation takes place. Safety is ensured through a combination of operational limitations, technical requirements for the machine, and the competency of the remote pilot. Examples of operations that fall into this category are filming and taking photographs, infrastructure inspections, and leisure activities in which the remote pilot keeps the unmanned aircraft in sight at all times.

Design requirements for small drones (up to 25kg) will be implemented by using the CE marking for products brought to the market in Europe. The operator will find in each drone package consumer information with the “do’s and don’ts” on how to fly a drone without endangering other people.

Therefore, for this smaller “Open” category of drones, the European Commission has asked European Standards Organisations (ESOs) to develop Harmonised Standards, addressing the 5 classes of consumer drones from C0 to C4, proportionally to the risk.