The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has formulated a set of drone regulations for all the EU member countries. In January 2021, the EASA standardized drone regulations. This means that every European country must follow the same standards for drones. Let us look at the new European drone regulations in detail:

Classification and Categories

The European drone regulations have been divided based on a drone’s class and category. A drone’s class can be identified through its manufacturing information or based on its weight. There are 5 classes of drones:

  • C0: Less than 250g
  • C1: Less than 900g
  • C2: Less than 4kg
  • C3 & C4: Less than 25kg

Categories on the other hand sort each drone based on its purpose, risk factor, etc. There are primarily three categories:

  • Open Category
  • Specified Category
  • Certified Category

Each class and category has a different set of regulations. Thereby, knowing what class and category your drone belongs to can help understand the regulations you must follow.

Open Category

The Open category is for low-risk drone operations. All leisure, sport, photography, and FPV drone operations fall under the Open category. To further differentiate drones based on their weight and purpose, the Open category has three sub-categories: A1, A2, and A3.

A1 Subcategory

The A1 subcategory is intended for small drones which belong to the C0 and C1 classes. The rules for A1 drones are:

  • Drone weight should not exceed 250g (C0 class) or 900g (C1 class)
  • All C1 class drones must be registered with the EASA.
  • The drone should be marked with a label indicating its class.
  • Speed of the drone should not exceed 19 m/s.
  • Should not be flown above people.

Some of the popular drones that can be flown without the need for registration, are the DJI Mavic Mini, Mini2, Tello, etc.

A2 Subcategory

The A2 category is intended for medium-sized drones. Most professional drones fall under the A2 category. Drones like the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, Parrot Anafi, DJI Mavic Pro, etc. can be operated under this category. The rules for A2 drones are:

  • Drone weight should not exceed 4kg
  • The drone should be marked with the C2 class label.
  • The drone should be registered with the EASA and the operator must be older than 16.
  • Drones must be flown away from people
  • Maximum horizontal distance for flights is 30 meters.

A3 Subcategory

A3 category drones are large, with a higher-risk of operation. These drones are generally flown away from urban areas and people. The rules for A3 drones are:

  • Drone weight should not exceed 25kg.
  • The drone should be marked with the C3 or C4 class label.
  • The drone should be registered with the EASA and the operator must be older than 16.
  • Drones must not be flown over people and kept at least 150m away from urban areas.

Specified Category

Drones that pose a higher risk of operation compared to the Open category fall into the specified category. The general rules for Specified category are:

  • The remote pilot must operate under a Standard Scenario issued by the EASA or the NAA (National Aviation Authority)
  • A declaration to the NAA must be submitted
  • If the operation is not conducted under a Standard Scenario, the pilot must conduct a predefined risk assessment (PDRA) and obtain permission from the NAA.
  • All remote pilots under this category must hold valid Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC)

Certified Category

Drones that possess the highest risk of damage to people and property are placed under the Certified category. A drone is put under this category if:

Remote Pilot Training

All remote pilots that fly their drone in any of the EU member countries, must undergo an online training course. Remote pilots of C0 drones (less than 250g) do not require to undergo any training to fly their drone.

Training for Open Category (A1, A2 & A3)

To operate under the A1 and A3 category, remote pilots must:

  • Follow the operator manual provided by the drone manufacturer.
  • Complete an online training course provided by the NAA.
  • Complete an online theoretical knowledge test at the end of the training course.

To operate the A2 category, remote pilots must comply with the abovementioned requirements and follow additional requirements which are as follows:

  • Complete practical training and familiarize yourself with the drone.
  • Complete an additional theoretical knowledge test at a NAA-approved facility. Upon completion of this test, the NAA will issue the pilot with a ‘Certificate of Remote Pilot Competency’.

Training for Specified Category

The training requirements for a Specified category operation are applicable under a standard scenario. The requirements are:

  • The remote pilot must obtain a Certificate of Remote Pilot Theoretical Knowledge.
  • The remote pilot must obtain a certificate of completion of STS-01 practical skill training.

Training for Certified Category

Since Certified category operations pose the highest risk, their requirements have not been defined yet. Certified category pilots would require proper certification and training. Drone operations like BVLOS, human transport, commercial transport are not yet approved in the EASA regulations, thus, there will likely be an amendment in the future. The proposal for such an amendment is set to be published in 2021.

For more information on the European drone regulations, click here.

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