At the turn of the year, the new EU drone regulation takes effect. We will inform you about the essential changes approximately once a week until the end of the year.
The last article dealt with the topic of “UAV classes”.
Today we want to go into the different categories of operation and have a look at what you have to consider. UAS operating categories are the subdivision of flights / flight maneuvers of unmanned aircraft based on certain (risk) criteria. These criteria include
- Technical characteristics of the UAS,
- Purpose of the flight,
- Flight characteristics (altitude, manoeuvres),
- Safety (for uninvolved persons, other flight systems),
- the operating environment,
- View of the UAS (VLOS = Visual Line of Sight, BVLOS = Beyond Visual Line of Sight), etc.
There are the categories OPEN, SPECIFIC, and CERTIFIED. Most drone flights by hobby pilots, but also for commercial purposes, will take place in the category OPEN. These are flights with very low risk. The other two categories are usually intended for special applications.
Operating Category OPEN
The operating category OPEN is divided into A1, A2, and A3. This applies to all three subcategories:
- No BVLOS flights (no flights out of the pilot’s visual range); however, it is possible to add an observer who takes over the pilot’s view from the point where the pilot loses sight of the drone
- Maximum flight altitude 120m
- No material may be dropped and no dangerous goods transported
- Crowds of people must not be flown over
For UAS operations in the A1 category, the UAS operator does not need to obtain an operating license or submit an operating declaration before commencing operations. Drones between 250 g and 500 g are not allowed to fly over uninvolved persons. If uninvolved persons are unexpectedly flown over, the remote pilot must shorten the time during which the unmanned aircraft flies over these persons as much as possible. If C1 drones are used, the overflight is not allowed at all. The remote pilot must be familiar with the user manual and, if flying Class C1, must have completed and passed an online training course.
The UAV must not fly over uninvolved persons. In this case, the 1:1 rule applies: If the flight altitude is 53 m, for example, the distance must be at least 53 m. However, the horizontal distance must not be less than 30 m to the nearest uninvolved persons. An exception applies if the drone has a “low speed” mode, and this mode is switched on. In this case, the minimum distance must be only 5 m. The remote pilot must be familiar with the user manual and hold a remote pilot certificate.
The flight must be flown in an area where the remote pilot can reasonably assume that no uninvolved person will be endangered within the entire flight area. During UAS operation, a horizontal safety distance of at least 150 m to residential, commercial, industrial, or recreational areas must be maintained. As in A1, the remote pilot must be familiar with the UAS user manual and must have completed and passed an online training course.
Operating Category SPECIFIC
If, for certain reasons, one or more of the OPEN category regulations cannot be met, the SPECIFIC category applies.
Here, either an operating license is required, or a prior declaration must be made. A declaration is less complicated for an operating permit than a risk assessment. A declaration is sufficient if the following criteria can be met:
The pilot flies with a UA with a maximum characteristic dimension (e.g. wingspan or rotor diameter) of
- up to 3 m in VLOS above a controlled area on the ground, but not above crowds,
- up to 1 m in VLOS, but not above crowds,
- up to 1 m in BVLOS, over sparsely populated areas,
- up to 3 m in BVLOS, above a controlled area on the ground,
- below 120 m altitude and above controlled airspace (i.e., not airspace F or G)
Those who have a LUC certificate do not need a declaration. (We will explain more about LUC certification in the next blog article).
If the criteria cannot be met, an operating license must be obtained. The competent authority issues this after examining the “operational risk assessment”, which the operator has to submit. Assuming that the authority considers the operation to be sufficiently safe. If not, the authority is obliged to state the reasons for refusal.
The risk assessment must include, for example, the following:
- Description of the UAS operation
- Suggestions for maintaining operational safety
- Identification of risks on the ground and in the air, e.g., uninvolved persons, objects, other flying objects,
- Risk reduction measures
- Technical features of the UAS
- Competencies of the personnel
- Airspace class
This is only a small selection. You can find the complete list in Article 11 of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947
It is only not necessary to submit an operating license if:
- the UAS operator holds a LUC certificate
- the operation is carried out within the framework of a model aircraft club or associations.
Operating licenses can also be issued for repetitive flights. For example, if the same route is to be flown several times a year for inspection purposes.
Operating Category CERTIFIED
Only certain operations are considered CERTIFIED. UAS must meet the following criteria to fall into this category:
- the dimension of the UAS is at least 3 m, and it is designed to be operated over crowds;
- it is designed to carry people;
- it is designed for the transport of dangerous goods and requires a high degree of robustness to reduce the risks to third parties in the event of an accident;
In addition, the following criteria apply to the flight itself:
- Flight over crowds of people
- Transport of people
- Transport of dangerous goods that pose a high risk to third parties in the event of an accident
Moreover, the responsible authority may assess the operational risk in the risk assessment so that the establishment falls within the category CERTIFIED.
What Category Do I Fall Under With My Current Drone?
If you have an existing drone, a temporary solution will apply until 01 January 2024. Existing drones are defined as UAVs that were purchased before 01.01.2023 and are not assigned to a C-Class. Is this the case, the following applies:
- UAS up to 500 g and operation without overflight over uninvolved persons belong to the category OPEN A1.
- UAS up to 2 kg and operation with a horizontal distance of at least 50 m to uninvolved persons belong to the category OPEN A2.
- UAS up to 25 kg and operation with a horizontal distance of at least 150 m to residential, recreational, and industrial areas and without flying over uninvolved persons belong to the category OPEN A3.
As of January 01, 2024, it will still be possible to operate in the category OPEN A1 and OPEN A3. Namely:
- Under OPEN A1, if the UAS weighs up to 250 g
- Under OPEN A3, if the UAS weighs up to 25 kg.
In this series’ next blog article, we will answer the questions about the “drone license”. What qualifications/knowledge will a pilot have to prove in the future? Which tests have to be taken, and are there different types of licenses?
Learn more in the next article!
Your FlyNex Team