Starting from June 2020, unified European Union drone laws will become a reality. European published two regulations 2019/945 and 2019/947 that describe the unified rules that all member countries will have to implement before June 2020. Some say that drone hobby is dead in EU and corporations are winning. I took a few hours of my life and I've read both documents and here is a short summary.
No, there will be no drone registration forced by the EU itself. Only a very specific class of drones (UAS they are called in official nomenclature) operating in "Certified" operations category will have to be registered and certified by local authorities. All hobby drones and airplanes operate in "Open" and "Specific" category and do not have to register
Pilot registration, course, and test
On the other hand, pilots that want to fly drones heavier than 250g (commercial or self-made DIY style) will have to register, take an online course and pass an online test to receive a certificate. From the documents we know that:
- the test will have 40 multiple choice questions
- questions will be distributed between the following subject: air safety, airspace restrictions, aviation regulation, human performance limitations, operational procedures, UAS general knowledge, privacy and data protection, insurance, security
- certified pilot will receive a unique identifier
- pilots who want to operate in Open.A2 class will have to:
pass an additional test of 30 multiple answer question in following subject: meteorology, UAS flight performance, technical and operational mitigations for ground risk
perform a self-practical straining under the rules of Open.A3 that will include the following scenarios: weather conditions, the performance of the unmanned aircraft, segregation of the overflown area
- no extra tests will be required for operations in category Open.A1 and Open.A3
Commercial drones and unmanned airplanes (sold in the European Union) will be categorized into the following categories:
- C0 – sub 250g class limited to 120m altitude (relative to take-off point), 24DC voltage and 19m/s level flight speed
- C1 – sub 900g class limited to 120m altitude (relative to take-off point), 24DC voltage and 19m/s level flight speed. It has to have battery monitoring and a transponder transmitting its serial number, pilot ID and additional flight parameters. On top of that, it has to meet noise level limits and have to have a space awareness system
- C2 – sub 4kg class limited to 120m altitude (relative to take-off point), 24DC voltage. It has to have battery monitoring and a transponder transmitting its serial number, pilot ID and additional flight parameters. On top of that, it has to meet noise level limits and have to have a space awareness system and position lights
- C3 – sub 25kg class limited to 120m altitude (relative to take-off point), 24DC voltage and longer dimension cannot be more than 3m. It has to have battery monitoring and a transponder transmitting its serial number, pilot ID and additional flight parameters. On top of that, it has to meet noise level limits and have to have position lights. It has to have a failsafe system that will safely land it in case of lost signal. It can be capable of autonomous flight.
- C4 – sub 25kg class, it can not do an autonomous flight.
Privately built drones and airplanes
DIY, self-made, privately built drones and airplanes that are intended to be used by the builder does not have to be classified like commercial ones. There is no voltage, electric only, altitude or transponder requirements like in classes C0-C4. DIY (so including hobby) drones and airplanes are allowed to operate in Open.A1 is they weight below 250g or Open.A3 is weight above 250g.
This means, if you built your own RC model, you can still fly it, do not have to register or actually meet any regulations that commercial drones have to meet even if your own model seems to be close to any of them.
Important: assembling a ready-to-use kit does not count as DIY! Ready to use kits have to be categorized as C0-C4 by manufacturer/seller/distributor.
Categories of operations
There are 3 main categories of operations (flights):
- Open – can be VLOS only and is limited to 120m of relative altitude. Open flight does not have to be registered and can be performed by C0-C4 classes and DIY models
- Specific – can be BVLOS (FPV) but needs permission from authorities or LUC certificate. A flying club can share its LUC certificate with its members
- Certified – reserved for dangerous operations: flying over people, transporting people, transporting dangerous materials. Needs an agreement from authorities and certified UAS
A Open category where most hobby flights will be performed is divided into:
- Open.A1 UAS.OPEN.020 – it is not allowed to fly over crowds, allowed to fly over a single uninvolved person, VLOS. Reserved for UAS classes C0, C1, and DIY below 250g
- Open.A2 UAS.OPEN.030 – at least 30m distance (that can be lowered to 5m in special cases) from uninvolved persons. Reserved for C2 UAS class
- Open.A3 UAS.OPEN.040 – not flying over uninvolved people at all, "be conducted in an area where the remote pilot reasonably expects that no uninvolved person will be endangered within the range where the unmanned aircraft is flown during the entire time of the UAS operation". All flight with UAS from classes C2, C3, C4 and above 250g DIY build have to be in A2 category
Current commercial drones after June 2020
All current commercial drone available on the market (DJI Spark, Mavic Air, Mavic Pro, Phantom, and another ready-made) that are not classified as C0-C4, will be allowed to fly after June 2020 on the same regulations as DIY build.
- All current commercial drones below 250g will be limited to Open A1
- All current commercial drones above 250g will be limited to Open A3
New regulations versus FPV
Unfortunately, the new EU drone regulations do not allow for FPV flights. Not even sub 250g is allowed FPV under Open category flights. FPV is possible only in Specific flight category and it requires permission from authorities or a LUC certificate. We have to wait for national, member countries, regulations to know the details.
There is a hope tho. In the second half of 2019, there will additional talks about two new Open flight classes:
- Urban VLOS – that will allow flying over crowds that consists of involved and participating people
- Rural BVLOS – Operations in sparsely populated areas using visual observers and below 120m
Rural BVLOS looks like the most interesting proposal. All my flights are performed in sparsely populated areas!