Recently published European drone regulations contain operational and risk-based rules for drone operations. Here the former EASA Pincipal Advisor explains the European regulatory system and informs about the new developments on the horizon.
Drone life – drones are flying high in Europe!
By: Dawn MK Zoldi, guest author
European drones soar as regulators continue to find a viable path for integration. Yves Morier, former chief advisor to the European Union for Aviation Safety (EASA) for new technologies at the Flight Standard Director, explains the European regulatory system and provides information on the path to European drone regulations. After his military service, Morier spent a long time in his illustrious civilian career with the French Civil Aviation Authority, the Joint Aviation Authorities in the Netherlands and EASA, from which he resigned in 2019.
According to Morier, EASA, which was created in 2002 by a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council (Member States), offers a high uniform level of security in civil aviation in the European Union (EU). Government aircraft and operations, similar to US “public planes”, are exempt from EASA regulation, as are certain small, low-risk manned aircraft. All civil drones, regardless of size, weight or use, are subject to EASA regulations.
The EASA Basic Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 defines the roles and responsibilities of EASA, the European Commission (EC), the 27 EU member states (plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) and the agency as follows:
- EASA – focuses on aircraft design (e.g. model certificates) and product approvals (e.g. approvals from construction organizations), also for third countries. It also approves organizations in third countries. The agency issues certification specifications, airworthiness and safety guidelines, and acceptable means of compliance / guidance (AMC / GM) that are broadly in line with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory circulars. EASA also issues regulations (opinions) which, once adopted by the Commission, after open consultation (notification of the proposed change or NPA) with the European Parliament and / or the Member States, become binding on the Member States. The agency also monitors Member States’ implementation of drone regulations through regular team visits and assessments.
- Member States – Provision of all other approvals for the persons or organizations in their area of responsibility, including licenses, air operator certificates, maintenance permits, production permits, air traffic control, aerodrome certificates, UAS pilot qualifications, permits for operations in the respective category (see below) and registration of drone operators. The registers are national, but linked to one another via a system defined and mediated by EASA. Member State approvals are valid in all EU and Associated Countries, except for certain operating permits where some geographic and weather related elements may need to be checked when moving to another country. Finally, the Member States also participate in the EASA Management Board, which gives them a voice in EASA internal management.
The basic regulation was implemented in the following by two regulations.
Regulation 2019/947 provides operation-centric and risk-based rules and procedures for drone operations. It defines three categories of UAS operations (open, specific and certified), which were developed in parallel with JARUS categories A, B and C, which were also previously dealt with here in DroneLife.
In the open category, there is no operating permit but a number of restrictions such as visual line of sight (VLOS), maximum altitude 400 feet, and maximum take-off mass under 55 pounds. The ordinance included operations over persons (OOP) and at night at the beginning. The open category is divided into 3 sub-categories relevant for OOP, which are listed below:
- A1 – enables overflights over isolated people with drones with a maximum mass of 900 g in classes C0 and C1 (more about the following classes). Online training is required.
- A2 – Allows drones with a maximum mass of 4 kg in class C2 to fly near people. Online training as well as self-explanatory hands-on training is required.
- A3- allows flights only far from people and airports, for drones with a maximum mass of 55 pounds, class C3 and C4. Online training is also required.
The specific category includes all operations that do not belong to the open and certified categories. It requires a risk-based operating license issued by the competent authority of the Member State. Examples of this include out of sight range of sight and some drone delivery operations. The specific category corresponds to receiving Part 107 exemptions in the United States
The compliance method recognized by Member States is the Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) developed by the Joint Authorities for Establishing Unmanned Systems (JARUS). It deals with ground and air risk and combines both to create a specific level of safety and integrity (SAIL) between I and VI. A risk level of VII or higher puts the company in the higher certified category. SORA also defines suitable mitigation measures.
Morier, who was chairman of JARUS from 2017 to 2019, explains: “In order to avoid a systematic application of SORA, standard scenarios (operations with low risk) have been defined, which allow a declaration of conformity to be issued instead of a formal approval. Pre-determined risk assessments (PDRA) have also been defined. If an operation satisfies these, authorization is still required but should be easier to obtain. Approvals in the respective category are valid in all EU countries, but geographic and weather-related mitigation measures may need to be checked. “
BVLOS is permitted in certain and certified categories depending on the risk assessment.
In the certified category, the drones are certified, the operators receive a certificate and the pilot has a license. This is most similar to manned aviation flights and how the US applies Part 135 to on-demand commercial deliveries. Certified operations have been classified into 3 types:
- Type 1 operation – Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) for drones that carry cargo in airspace classes A – C (ICAO airspace classification) and take off from and / or land at airports covered by the Basic Regulation.
- Type 2 operation – drones that take off and / or land in congested environments on predefined routes in U-space airspace. This includes the operation of unmanned VTOL aircraft that transport passengers (e.g. air taxis) or freight (e.g. goods delivery services).
- Type 3 operations – as in Type 2 operations with VTOL aircraft with a pilot on board, including operations outside of U-space airspace
Regulation 2019/945 is the second implementing regulation for the basic regulation and describes how a class identification for the drone is obtained, similar to how all other products in the EU are marked with the “CE mark”. Six classes apply to drones, C0 to C. The conformity levels C0 to C4 apply to the open category. C5 and C6 for the specific category including SORA standard scenarios 01 and 02. Morier explains: “This is not an airworthiness permit, but there are some similarities such as technical requirements, applicable standards and verification of conformity by an independent body.”
Drones of classes C1 and 2, C3 (if not connected) as well as C5 and 6 must be equipped with remote identification (RID). The regulation defines RID as “a system that ensures the local transmission of information about an unmanned aircraft in operation, including the identification of the unmanned aircraft so that this information can be obtained without physical access to the unmanned aircraft.” Regulation 2019/945 defines the requirements for the RID system and the requirements for the identification number (standard ANSI / CTA-2063-A-2019).
This regulation also contains the requirements for when drones should be certified as well as requirements for operators of UAS in third countries. Americans traveling to Europe with their drones must generally comply with all of these regulations, unless the Commission recognizes third-party certificates for pilots and operators that offer the same level of safety as EU regulations. These third party providers are supervised by the first Member State in which they wish to operate.
Stay up to date with the following upcoming events in Europe:
- Certified Regs category – Two upcoming amendment notices, such as the FAA’s Notice of Public Regulations, will be published in the certified category: one for Type 3 Operations published in 2022 and one for Type 1 and 2 Operations published in 2023 become .
- Standard for technical requirements of Regulation 2019/945 – – An ongoing development plan including direct RID, light drones and geospatial awareness will continue to be pursued, administered by the European Unmanned Aircraft Standard Coordination Group (EUSCG) hosted by EUROCAE.
- U-Space (UTM) – The SESAR Joint Undertaking has fifteen active and twenty-two closed research projects, including full scale demonstrations. The applicable Regulation 2021/664, supplemented by the other two Regulations 2021/665 and 666, applies in January 2023 to UAS operators and U-space service providers in geographical areas that have been defined as U-space airspace by the Member States and providers of common information services. Expect Fall 2021 Studies (Dronelife coverage here)
- Acceptable means of compliance / guidance (AMC / GM) and standards – The NPA for AMC / GM for the USspace regulation is planned for this year.
Further information on European regulations and guidelines can be found at:
Dawn MK Zoldi (Colonel, USAF, retired) is a licensed attorney with 28 years of active military and federal service in the Air Force Department. She is an internationally recognized expert on the law and politics of unmanned aircraft systems, a columnist for several magazines, recipient of the Woman to Watch in UAS (Leadership) Award 2019, President and CEO of UAS Colorado and CEO of P3 Tech Consulting LLC. You can find more information on their website at: https://www.p3techconsulting.com.