In the third part of our blog series on flight authorizations for drone flights in the operating category “special”, we will talk about the so-called operator certificate, or LUC (Light UAS Operator Certificate).

Since the introduction of operating categories with the new EU Drone Regulation, various requirements and obligations apply to drone operations. For flights in the second operating category “specific”, an operational authorization is mandatory due to the increased risks.

If the risk is only minimally higher than the first operating category “open”, a simple operating declaration is sufficient (read more). If this is not the case, the complex process of operating permit plus risk analysis is required (read more). For legal entities, there is also the option of applying for an operator certificate, which can be used to approve flights independently.

Learn how to obtain an operator certificate or LUC and what to consider in this article.

THE OPERATOR CERTIFICATE FOR LIGHT UAS

Anyone who regularly and frequently carries out flight projects as a company or organization can apply for a so-called LUC at the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA). This certificate can be equated with a permanent operational authorization, however, only for predefined scenarios.

The big benefit is obvious: There is no need to obtain individual permits for drone flights. This makes work easier, especially when operating concepts have to be changed frequently, e.g., due to changing locations. UAS operators thus have significantly greater flexibility, as they no longer have to rely on the authority and can thus implement projects more quickly. In addition, the certificate is valid for operations throughout Europe.

HOW TO GET A LUC?

To become a Light UAS operator Certificate Organization (LUCO), an application must be submitted to the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA), which also issues the certificate after verification. The LBA only needs an informal application by e-mail.

The application for issuance of a LUC or modification of an existing LUC should basically contain all the following information:

  • A description of the UAS operator’s management system, including its organizational structure and safety management system (SMS)
  • The names of the UAS operator’s responsible personnel, including the names of those responsible for approving UAS operations
  • A statement that all documentation submitted to the competent authority has been reviewed by the applicant and found to comply with the applicable requirements

With the certificate, the organization registers with the Civil Aviation Authority as an aviation authority and can thus demonstrate that it knows and can assess the risks of a UAV operation. They are granted rights and responsibilities, the extent of which is determined by operational experience. Operational experience is defined by the company’s experience in UAS operations, conducting a risk analysis, and experience in determining risk mitigation measures.

All in all, the requirements for the applicant to obtain a LUC are significantly higher than for obtaining an operational authorization. Accordingly, the effort required for the application is also higher here and can take several months to complete.

THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF A LUCO

Depending on the LUCO’s assessment, the level of approval (rights granted) may vary. The authority checks compliance with the requirements and the LUCO several times and issues it upon satisfactory results. Once an operator’s certificate is issued, it has an unlimited validity period. In this regard, the authority reserves the right to suspend or revoke the rights at any time.

The following rights can be granted:

  1. Internal declaration of compliance with a standard scenario (STS) without prior forwarding to another authority
  2. Internal authorization of operational concepts (

ConOps)

  • Modification of an approved ConOps
  • Authorization of a ConOps through the proper application of a
PDRA
  • Authorization of a ConOps through the proper application of a

SORA(You can read all about the ConOps and the STS, PDRAs and SORA here.)

All ConOps must be reviewed for content and formally approved by the LUCO. The LUCO thus also bears the responsibility for compliance.

THE LUC-M

The LUC manual is referred to as the LUC-M. It is a mandatory document for a LUCO to hand over to the competent authority. The LUC-Manual contains all the information about the organization, operating procedures, and activities performed. When writing the manual, the company acts as if it already possesses the operator’s certificate. Detailed information is available in the LBA LUC Guide (in German).

FIRST LUC ALREADY ISSUED

The operator certificate was introduced with the new EU drone regulation in force since the end of 2020. Despite the extensive application process, the first companies have already received a LUC. The first certificate in Europe was awarded in Austria back in February to the company CAMCOPTER.

Austro Control, the aviation authority in Austria, has thus shown how efficient work can achieve fast results. German applicants, however, will have to be patient for a while. The LBA is not expected to issue operator certificates before the end of the year.

We will be happy to help you with any further questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us!

We wish you good flights,

Your FlyNex Team

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