Jessica Schulz | 12/14/2020
The new EU Drone Regulation EU Drone Regulation that forces in January 2021 defines basic rules for all EU countries. This replaces specific drone laws from single countries. There will be also in future state-specific requirements that must fulfilled in addition. Thus, when traveling abroad, it is still necessary to pay attention to the specific drone laws may additionally apply in the travelled country. The differences between the individual countries relate primarily to the age restriction of drone pilots and the regions of drone flights that may be prohibited (e.g.: national parks, airports, etc.).
Basically, the EU Drone Regulation includes two main components: the application scenarios and the classification/categorization of drones. In total, there will be 3 application scenarios and 5 risk categories.
This article explains just the main components of the new regulation. All detailed information is available on the EASA website:
EU Drone Regulation
There are three application scenarios in the new EU Drone Regulation: Open, Specific and Certified. This article will focus on the “open” application scenario because this will probably affect most commercial and non-commercial camera drones. The Specific and Certified scenarios are only briefly described below.
The “Open” application scenario is for low-risk drones and flights. It is defined as follows:
- Maximum flight altitude 120m above ground
Exception: inspection of an industrial object. The maximum altitude is extended to the height of the object plus 15m.
- Flight only within visual line of sight (VLOS) except the drone is flying in follow-me mode or a second observer is present with permanent view to the drone and continuous contact with the pilot
- Legally required liability insurance
- Minimum age is 16 years (unless it is a toy according to Directive 2009/48/EC)
- EU drone license is mandatory
- Observance of the country-specific rules and regulations
- Respect for the privacy of persons
- Further requirements depend on the respective risk category
Subcategories of the Open category
- A1: EA flight is also possible near to people, but not above assemblies of people or uninvolved persons. If this happens unexpectedly the flight must be stopped as soon as possible.
- A2: A flight is only permitted at a safe distance from uninvolved persons (distance at least 30 meters, in exceptional cases and if the slow mode of the drone is activated, also up to 5 meters distance).
- A3: A flight is allowed just far away from people. There must be no uninvolved persons in the entire flight area. In addition, a minimum distance of 150 meters from residential, commercial, recreational areas and/or other industrial areas not involved applies
Which requirement applies to which drone depends on the drone class (C0 to C4, see table below), that must be determined by the manufacturer.
The Specific application scenario is for flights that exceed the specifications of the Open category, such as the flight altitude or visibility. Special individual exemptions are required. For example, an operating permit must be obtained and a risk assessment has to be submitted. Detailed information is available on the EASA website: Application Scenario Specific
Operations shall be classified as UAS operations in the ‘certified’ category only where the following requirements are met: (a) the UAS is certified pursuant to points (a), (b) and (c) of paragraph 1 of Article 40 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945; and
(b) the operation is conducted in any of the following conditions:
i. over assemblies of people;
ii. involves the transport of people;
iii. involves the carriage of dangerous goods, that may result in high risk for third parties in case of accident.
In addition, UAS operations shall be classified as UAS operations in the ‘certified’ category where the competent authority, based on the risk assessment provided for in Article 11, considers that the risk of the operation cannot be adequately mitigated without the certification of the UAS and of the UAS operator and, where applicable, without the licensing of the remote pilot.
However, this scenario is for special applications and therefore requires special certification process and licenses.
In total, there are 5 risk categories for drones in the new EU Drone Regulation: C0, C1, C2, C3 and C4. A drone manufactured after 1/1/2023 must be classified in one of the 5 categories. Transition rules apply to existing drones, which are explained in more detail below.
|Weight||less than 250g||less than 900g or energy less than 80J||less than 4kg||less than 25kg||less than 25kg|
|Flight altitude||max. 120m||max. 120m or adjustable altitude limit||max. 120m or adjustable altitude limit||max. 120m or adjustable altitude limit||max. 120m or adjustable altitude limit|
|Geo Sensititazion||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, if required in flight zone|
|Permitted maneuvers||Open Category A1||Open Category A1||Open Category A2, A3||Open Category A3 (drone must be less than 3 meter)||Open Category A3 (drone must be less than 3 meter)|
|License||Not required||EU Certificate of Competence (small drone license)||EU Certificate of Competence (small drone license), if A2 is used EU remote pilot certificate (large drone license) is required||EU Certificate of Competence (small drone license)||EU Certificate of Competence (small drone license)|
|Insurance||Insurance Liability||Insurance Liability||Insurance Liability||Insurance Liability||Insurance Liability|
|Special Features||Also applies to homemade drones||–||–||–||No automatic/autonomous flight allowed|
All homemade drones under 250g are classified in category C0 – if the are over 250g in weight, they are classified in C3/C4.
For stock drones and for those produced until the end of December 2022, the following transitional rules should apply:
- All drones require an insurance
- Drones under 250g are allowed to fly in the Open category including subcategories A1, A2 and A3, and no EU drone license is required.
- Drones over 250g but less than 500g don’t require an EU drone license and these may be operated in the Open category including subcategories A1, A2 and A3. From 1/1/23, however, a small EU drone license is necessary.
- For drones over 500g and less than 2kg the large EU drone license is required if the flight is near to humans (category Open A2), a small drone license is sufficient if the flight ist categorized as Open A3
The classification of drones into a risk category according to the new EU Drone Regulation is very complex, so not the users but the manufacturers are responsible. Thus, manufactures must assign the produced drones to one of the five categories each and make this clear to the user.
For TOPseven, the classification is as follows: The DJI drone used is assigned to the C3 category and the mission to the “Open” scenario. For questions, feel free to contact us.
Learn everything about drone-based inspection here.
(errors and omissions excepted)