If you plan to use drones in your company, you usually need an operational authorisation. First and foremost, this depends on the operating category in which the drone flight is intended to take place. Namely, the following applies: a flight that cannot be defined in the operating category “open” falls into the higher-risk and permit-requiring category “specific”. This would be the case, for example, if a 5 kg drone should be flown above 120 m or closer than 150 m to residential or industrial areas.

In the “specific” category, a permit is required, which can be applied for in the form of an operational declaration, operational authorisation, or a light UAS operator certificate. The following graphic shows the requirements for the various approval procedures and options.

Decision tree for operational authorisation

For each procedure, we will publish a separate article on our blog.

It should be mentioned that there are still transitional regulations due to the new EU drone regulation and the recently adapted aviation laws in Germany. We will take up and summarize these again at the end of the blog series.

In this part, we will first start with the operational declaration, the easiest way to get a permit if the conditions are met.

THE OPERATIONAL DECLARATION

The operational declaration is a written statement that the flight is in the “specified” operating category, but only involves a minimally increased risk. A predefined standard scenario (STS) can be invoked here.

A statement of UAS operation is sufficient if the following criteria are met in compliance with the STS:

The pilot flies a C-classified UAV with a maximum characteristic dimension (e.g., diameter) of

  • up to 3 m in VLOS over a controlled area on the ground, not over crowds,
  • up to 1 m in VLOS, but not over 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 over controlled airspace (i.e., not airspace F or G).

THE STANDARD SCENARIOS

STSs are intended to reduce the burden on agencies during permitting processes and cover most use cases.

Germany has currently defined two STS (according to Appendix 1 of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/639), which are expected to apply from 03.12.2023:

STS-01 for C5 Drones

  • VLOS (Visual Line of Sight)
  • Controlled ground area (flight zone, emergency zone, buffer zone)
  • Remote pilot certificate required + practical training for STS1
  • Airspace: controlled or uncontrolled with low risk of encountering manned aircraft.
  • Maximum flight altitude: 120 m
  • Maximum speed: 5 m/s

STS-02 for C6 Drones

  • BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight, max. 1 km horizontal distance)
  • EVLOS (Extended Visual Line of Sight, max. 2 km horizontal distance)
  • Remote pilot certificate required + practical training for STS1 + STS2
  • Airspace: controlled or uncontrolled with low risk of encountering manned aircraft
  • Maximum flight altitude: 120 m
  • Maximum speed: 50 m/s

It can be assumed that even more STS will be defined. Furthermore, it has not yet been clarified where the additional training for the use cases will be completed.

HOW DO I SUBMIT THE DECLARATION?

The declaration has to be submitted to the Federal Aviation Office (Luftfahrt-Bundesamt; LBA) (only possible from 12/03/2023). A template for the declaration of operation can be found in Appendix 2 of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/639.

In addition, the authority still requires an operations manual, or in other words, an operational concept. It should explain the compliance with the requirements and define instructions for the personnel involved. In addition, the operations manual must contain a description of the organization, safety measures, and all details of the flight, as well as the flight area. A complete catalog of requirements can be found in Appendix 5. It is very helpful to create a rough operational concept in the first step of flight planning, as this will show whether it is possible to fly according to a standard scenario.

After the LBA has checked the documents, you will receive a written confirmation as permission for the drone operation. This must be carried with you during operation.

The declaration must contain:

  • Administrative information about the UAS operator

  • A statement that the operation meets the operational requirements (criteria listed above)

  • The UAS operator’s commitment to comply with the relevant risk mitigation measures required for operational safety (including the relevant instructions for operation, for the design of the unmanned aerial vehicle, and the competence of the personnel involved)

  • The UAS operator’s confirmation that adequate insurance coverage is in place for each flight identified in the declaration

Anyone intending to fly in the “specified” category before December 2023 will have to use other approval procedures for the time being.

In the next article, we will deal with the topic of operating concepts (ConOps) for getting an operational authorisation. In contrast to the declaration of operation, submitting an operating concept is currently already possible and widespread when it comes to commercial drone operations.

We wish you good flights,

Your FlyNex Team

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