What the new EASA legislation means for drone operators & manufacturers
The new EU regulation for drones that everyone seems to be talking about consists of 2018/1139, the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947. These regulations replace national drone regulations of member states, with few exceptions for state governed UAS operations by e.g. the military or police operations. These new regulations harmonise the UAS regulations throughout EU and for the first time state the requirements for CE marking of drones.
All drones will have to comply with the new regulations, but not all drones will have to have CE mark. It will still be allowed to build your own drones. The main difference with privately built drones and manufactured produced drones is that the private ones will be put in a separate category and will have to have greater safety buffers to humans, except drone with a MTOW below 250g. (2019/947 Article 20)
The Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 develops into two different regulations:
Regulation (EU) 2019/945 which establishes the requirements for compliance during the design and manufacturing phases, in force since 1st July 2019.
Regulation 2019/947 which establishes provisions for the operating drones, in force since 1st July 2019 and whose application begins 1st July 2020.
The categorisation of drones is now based on the new UE 2019/947 Execution Regulation based on their operatively, surpassing the subdivision of ENAC that was based on the distinction between recreational activities and professional operations. The new legislation includes UAS operations carried out in the context of clubs and associations for aircraft models.
The EU legislation UE 2019/947 highlights three categories of drones:
Open, which are aircraft whose operation is at low risk (i.e. ground risk), but for which CE-mark is mandatory (from 1 July 2022), as defined by the EU Regulation 2019/945. As we will discuss in the next paragraph, the Open category includes 3 sub-categories (A1, A2 and A3), divided into 5 classes of aircraft with different characteristics (C0, C1, C2, C3 and C4, plus self-built drones), where each class is subject to particular requirements. Drones are mainly divided by their MTOW (maximum take-off weight) and thus by the risk they pose for humans.
Specific, which are drones characterised by a medium risk that are subject to risk assessment. CE marking is not required for this category. Jarus (Joint Authorities for Rule-making on Unmanned Systems) is the technical committee responsible for defining the guidance material and the standard scenarios for the declarations of conformity that the operators will have to fulfil.
Certified, which are the drones used in high-risk operations, such piloted military drones – naturally excluded from the CE marking process-, for which pilot certification and license is required.
Characteristics of drones in Open Category subject to CE marking
The Regulation (EU) 2019/945 imposes CE marking and defines the compliance requirements for each Open sub-category and class. The new standard also imposes in some cases the intervention of a notified body.
A1 - Class C0 and class C1 with a weight < 250g (plus self-built drones without CE marking) fall into sub-category A1.
A2 - Class C2 aircraft belongs to the sub-category A2 and
A3 - Classes C3 and C4 – plus self-built drones with weight < 25 kg and without CE marking – fall into sub-category A3.
The differentiation is based on weight (or, only for class C1, on kinetic energy) and imposes certain limits related to the safety of people. Indeed, the new drone standard does not allow flying over gatherings of people or crowds and establishes additional limits even when flying over “uninvolved people” in the vicinity. For example, for the subcategories A2 & A3 the overflight on crowded areas is prohibited.
No specific training is required for the use of drones with a weight up to 250 g, while the completion of a theoretical training to acquire the notions of flight rules and airspace is mandatory for pilots of higher-weight UAS (classes C1, C2, C3, C4 and for self-built drones with a weight up to 25 kg).
All classes, except the C0 and self-built aircrafts with a weight <250 g, must be able to be identified remotely in real time, including registration number, position, starting from 1 July 2022.
The differences between UAS classes in the Open category are summarised in the table below:
*”Before starting the UAS operation, the remote pilot should assess the area and should reasonably expect that no uninvolved person will be overflown. This evaluation should be made taking into account the configuration of the site of operation (e.g. the existence of roads, streets, pedestrian or bicycle paths), and the possibility to secure the site and the time of the day. In case of an unexpected overflight, the remote pilot should reduce as much as possible the duration of the overflight, for example, by flying the UAS in such a way that the distance between the UAS and the uninvolved people increases, or by positioning the UAS over a place where there are no uninvolved people” (However, there is no minimum distance to people or specified safety buffer imposed on the C1 class.)
** max 3 m/s
The Regulation (EU) 2019/945 imposes several manufacturing requirements for each class, including the characteristics of the materials, the equipment, the noise emitted and the characteristics of the system.
Application and transition period of European standard on drones
The Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 on manufacturing requirements has been in force since 1st July 2019, while the Execution Regulation 2019/947 will be applied from 1st July 2020. Before that date, we will await the revision of the ENAC Regulation which will define what transitional adjustments will have to be made before the complete application of the new European Legislation. In the meantime, drones can be used under the Open Category regime until 1st July 2022, which is the final deadline for the sale and operation of remotely piloted aircrafts that do not comply with the new standard for the European Community.
In the next article I will examine the requirements for the most popular amateur and professional drones.