European drone regulation

European drone regulation

The European drone regulation will come into force six months behind the previous roadmap: from 1 July 2020 to 1 January 2021. The rumors of the past few weeks have been confirmed by the Commission Implementing Regulation 2020/746 published today in the Official Journal of the European Union. The reason is due to the measures taken to contain the Covid-19 pandemic which slow down the activities of all those involved in the implementation of the regulation. European drone regulation.

 

From that day on, dronists and aspiring dronists will be able to count on a series of rules governing once and for all, hopefully, the practice of piloting a drone for leisure and commercial purposes. The competence on the regulation of the so-called SAPR operations (remotely piloted aircraft) will pass from ENAC (National Civil Aviation Authority) to EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency. This is the last installment of a not exactly linear soap opera the discipline on the use of drones in Italy, often complicated to follow but up to now mostly concerning professionals.

 

DIFFERENT CATEGORIES FOR DRONES AND OPERATIONS

To clarify, when we speak of “operations” we simply mean to fly your drone, but the legislative jargon must still be learned to avoid taking fireflies for lanterns.

 

Well, EASA has set up some categories for operations and some categories for drones , in this way it is easy to understand what are the requirements to be met. To start, you have to ask yourself the questions: what do I want to do with my drone? and how much does my drone weigh?

 

The first categorization depends on the type of flight that is performed with the drone (but not only), in particular the potential danger of the operation is taken into consideration . Warning, not the danger to the drone, i.e. high possibility of crashing it on a tree or a cliff, but high danger to people and things (for example, risk of dropping it on someone’s head or ending up against the glass of a building ). The categories are 3 and include everything that can fly, from small drones to passenger planes.

 

OPERATIONS CATEGORIES

  • Open
  • Specific
  • Certified

 

The categories that interest us are the OPEN and SPECIFIC , because they are the two categories with amateurs and professionals must familiarize themselves.

 

To understand the difference between the two, a simple sentence is enough: everything that does not fall into the OPEN category becomes the SPECIFIC category . Knowing therefore the requisites to re-enter an OPEN operation, it will automatically be easy to understand if it is bounded in a specific operation.

 

Let us give two examples: for an OPEN operation the weight of the drone must not exceed 25 kg, if therefore the drone is heavier the operation will take on the characteristic of SPECIFIC.

 

For the OPEN category, only the visual flight of sight -VLOS is foreseen and no more than 120 meters in height, if you exceed even one of these limitations, the operation becomes specific.

 

For the SPECIFIC category there are special authorizations assessed from time to time by the competent bodies, in turn the specific operations can become certified if there are certain hazard requirements that cannot remain within the specific boundary, for these aeronautical rules apply. European drone regulation. Ok, it is twisted but it concerns professionals who are already required to comply with complicated regulations, here we are more concerned with the regulation for consumer drones, the various DJI, Xiaomi, self-built etc.

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THE OPEN CATEGORY (that of the Mavic)

Now we will focus more on the OPEN category, the one where good or bad we all fall for the flight with drones for fun or entertainment. Relatively small and affordable drones for everyone in terms of piloting.

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To fall into the OPEN category there are four basic requirements to be respected:
  • VLOS flight only (visual flight)
  • Only drones under 25 kg MTOM ( MTOM means maxium take-off mass, i.e. maximum take-off mass)
  • Maximum flight height of 120 meters
  • Drone must have CE mark

If even one of these requirements is not respected. It means that a SPECIFIC operation is being carried out. Which is not an offense but provides for other. Much more stringent, requirements. (for example the ENAC flight authorization).

 

Here things are quite clear. The various Mavics, from the Mini upwards. Can potentially fly over 120 meters in height and away from their field of vision . European drone regulation. However, know that if they “pinch” you in this situation you can be sanctioned (and it won’t be that difficult to be caught, but we’ll see why).

 

Now, within the OPEN category there are three other subcategories: A1 – A2 – A3 which depend on the flight position in relation to people.

 

  • A1: above people (pilot excluded)
  • A2: close to people
  • A3: away from people.

Also there is another sub-category that examines the mass of the drone:

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DRONES CATEGORIES

  • C0: MTOM <250 g
  • C1: MTOM <900 g
  • C2: MTOM <4 kg
  • C3: MTOM <25 kg

The table we insert below must be the bible, learn it well because it briefly summarizes everything you need to know.

 

Let’s see a quick translation by points of the most important things that are written.

 

  • In class A1 (flight over uninformed people) you can only fly with drones under 250 grams or drones between 250 and 900 grams ONLY WITH CE DRONES. In this class you can also fly over urban centers.
  • The first requirement for flying A1-A3 is an online course followed by an online exam . The only case in which it is not necessary to have a “license” is to fly with drones under 250 grams commercial or self-built.
  • Only drones under 250 grams do not need an electronic identification system (transponder)
  • If the drone exceeds 900 grams with a new CE mark you can fly close to people (A2) but only if the pilot has passed a theoretical test carried out in an authorized center (flight in A2C2), in addition to the A1 / A3 license.
  • Class A3 collects all drones that do not appear in other classes. Drones above 900 grams, self-built above 250 grams.

 

 

NEW CE MARK

What is written in the table above is valid for drones marked with the new CE label. For example it is therefore not valid for all DJI drones currently on the market. What happens for example with a Mavic Air 1 or a Mavic Pro 1 and 2? .

 

The new label includes the CE mark followed by a number indicating the category the drone belongs to: CE-01, CE-02. As we saw in the review of the Mavic Air 2, in reality the legislation is still not completely clear. The DJI itself complains of still hazy standards that have not allowed its latest drone to be certified with the new CE mark.

 

If the device weighs less than 250 grams nothing happens. The drone can fly in A1, A2, A3 forever respecting the rules of the OPEN categories. On the other hand, it weighs between 250 and 500 grams. It can be subject to category A1C1 until June 2022. After which it will end up in category A3 . If it weighs more than 500 grams it is considered on a par with a higher category drone (C3). Therefore it can only fly in A3.

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TRASPONDER

A nice complication: for drones over 250 grams there is an electronic identification device (ADS-B). In reality, little is known about this device and probably the situation will be clearer from January. However, it will be necessary to fly A1 and A2, probably not for A3 flight. For the moment it doesn’t make sense to worry, we will know more in the coming months.

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FLIGHT AREAS ALLOWED

On the D-Flight website, you can consult the constantly updated maps of the flight areas for free. You must first register for free on the site, after which you will have access to the map. The area in which you find yourself can have different characteristics in which the permitted flight height changes. Where not specified the general rules of the OPEN category will remain valid (120 m high and VLOS flight). In the red areas you cannot fly the drone.

 

 

From 1 January 2021 for recreational purposes it will be necessary to obtain an enabling license to be able to pilot a drone over 250 grams (the obligation was already in force since 1 March for professionals who must refer to the ENAC regulation of November 2019) .

 

You don’t run away, you need to get your license unless you want to fly only drones under 250 grams. The good Mavic Mini comes into play, which is the only drone with good skills that does not fall under the obligations. Nothing to do instead for the various Mavic Air, less than ever for the first and second generation Pros.

 

Getting the license costs 31 Euros. Until January 1st you will pay only for passed exam. You can try it up to 6 times a week. After January 1st each attempt will cost 31 Euros. European drone regulation. It is therefore clear that the advice is to try in every way to pass the test before January .

 

Since the topic is complex. We have dedicated an article to the drone license in which you will find all the necessary information. You can reach it from the link below.

 

DRONE REGISTRATION

As of January 1, 2021, each drone equipped with a video camera system must be registered on the D-Flight website. This type of recording has nothing to do with the license we mentioned above. It is a sort of “plate” to be affixed to your drone and which certifies that that drone belongs to us. In practice it will be a QR Code to be printed and attached in a visible position on the drone.

 

The question we asked ourselves is: what happens for small self-made drones and not with a low definition camera for FPV?

 

The answer is not so obvious because the first part of the sentence would suggest. They are exempt (high definition camera), while the conclusion of the sentence is clear. European drone regulation. Even a small FPV camera is to be considered potentially detrimental to privacy. Therefore also this type of drone will need to be registered.

Our Mavic Mini that weighs 249 grams? Yes, it will have to be registered and the procedure will cost 6 Euros .

To register a drone it is first necessary to register as SAPR operators. This step is free but requires an identification document identification procedure.

For professionals as you can see in the photo. The rates are different and more important. A nice fee for each individual drone plus an annual subscription.

 

MANDATORY INSURANCE

It does not expressly concern the European regulation but is in any case a valid rule for the Italian territory. Established by the third ENAC regulation in force since 15 December 2019. European drone regulation. It is a transitory regulation in view of the transition to the European one. However this indication will most likely come maintained.

 

We quote article 32: ” It is not allowed to conduct operations with an SAPR unless an insurance concerning liability to third parties. Adequate for the purpose, has been stipulated and valid.”

 

No reference is made to weight and type of operation. Therefore all drones must be insured. On average this is a price of around 30 Euros per year for recreational drones.

 

Some specialized magazines such as Dronezine and groups of hobbyists are offering advantageous policies with various proposals on coverages.

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