Drones: Q&A on the new common European rules

Drones: Q&A on the new common European rules

The EASA commission has approved the new EU drone regulation that replaces national legislation for drones. Simplified rules and higher safety standards for those who want to operate with RPAS, remotely piloted aircraft systems. Here are the main changes.


The common European regulation for drones has entered into force. In June 2018, the European Parliament approved the new EASA Basic Regulation. In February 2019, the examination of the implementing measures ended, with the approval of the representatives of the member states in the EASA Committee of the European Commission. Then, the publication of the implementing rules in the Official Journal of the European Union followed. It took place on the 11th of June 2019, entering into force 20 days after publication. It will be applicable only in one year, though, to give Member States time to prepare and implement it.


Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring safe, secure and sustainable operations of drones, both for commercial and leisure activities. Common rules will help foster investment, innovation and growth in this promising sector”,

said Patrick Ky, Executive Director of EASA.

The applicability of the new rules will be gradual, according to a timeline on the EASA drone page. After a two-year transition period, anyone wishing to operate a drone in Italy will no longer have to follow the old ENAC regulation, but will have to know and abide by the new European law.

What does the new common European regulation for drones provide for? Which are its most important aspects? What will operators and companies have to do to operate with drones? In order to become familiar with the new legislative scenario, we interviewed Marco Ducci, CEO of EuroUSC Italia, a company specialized in consulting on the use of drones and an expert in the field of regulation.


Why a common European regulation on drones?

The new European regulation is part of a framework that is constantly and rapidly evolving. The drones market has already expanded considerably in Europe in recent years. But it will see an even further growth in the coming years. However, the difference between national regulations is too great. Therefore, it became necessary to create a common regulatory framework to ensure the same safety standards in all Member States. Thus, harmonisation of rules will ensure the safe inclusion of SAPR aircraft in civil airspace. Moreover, the new regulation simplifies the rules for operating on the national territory and in the other Member States of the European Union.


Which aircraft does the new regulation affect?

All of them. Any remotely piloted aircraft intended for civil use, regardless of its size and configuration.


In what way have the rules been simplified?

There is one important innovation: for the first time, the rules to respect will depend on the level of risk of each operation. Therefore, different operations may have different requirements to meet, although the drone might be exactly the same.


How many categories of drone operations will be introduced?

Three categories of operations have been identified: Open (A), Specific (B) and Certified (C).
The Open category has the lowest risk level. It comprises three subcategories: flight operations over people (A1), near people (A2) and far from people (A3). In all three cases, drones fly under direct visual line of sight (VLOS); the maximum flight altitude allowed is 120 m, while the mass of the drone may not exceed 25 kg.
Drones authorized to fly in the Open category will be divided into 5 classes (from C0 to C4) depending on the mass, technical specifications, automatic functions and performance of the aircraft. In order to obtain the class mark and at the same time the compulsory CE mark, manufacturers and importers must submit a declaration of conformity. This way, a non-EU manufacturer will also have to adopt the same rules of conformity for its products.


Which drones and operations fall into the Specific and Certified categories?

In the Specific category, drones can also fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), so outside the pilot’s field of view. This category does not set any mass or altitude limitation. Also, it includes all operations that do not meet the requirements of the Open category.
The certifications required to fly a drone will depend on the level of risk of the specific mission, which will be assessed with a special analysis. EASA and the National Authorities will also publish standard scenarios to allow faster approval for those flying within the set limitations.
Finally, the Certified category includes drones transporting dangerous goods or persons, and operations with drones flying over groups of people. In this case, flying requires various certifications: for the aircraft, the operator and the pilot.

Categories and requirements of the new European Drones Regulation. Source: Deep Blue.


With this new regulations, how does one become a pilot of drones?

For the Open category, which includes most of the operations carried out today, the procedures for training pilots and issuing certificates will become easier. With the new European regulation, it will be possible to follow online courses on certified platforms, making it easier to become a pilot for low-risk operations.


What changes for higher risk operations?

In the Specific category, the main change concerns the risk assessment of operations using the SORA (Specific Operation Risk Assessment) methodology. The SORA methodology guides the risk assessment of the operation step by step. It also evaluates both ground risk (what happens if a drone falls to the ground), and air risk (collision in flight). SORA provides a series of requirements to meet depending on the level of risk. These requirements cover different areas: technical aspects of drones and human factors, but also operational aspects and procedures of the operator. Once all these requirements are met, and after the competent authority (ENAC in Italy) has granted approval, an operator is authorized to fly.


How will the common European regulation replace the ENAC regulation?

The new European regulation is mandatory and binding in all Member States, which will have to adopt it without exception. The regulation will grant a transitional period of two years to bring national rules into line with European rules.
Some sectors will remain of national competence. For example, the procedures to access an airspace may vary from one Member State to another. Also, the no drone zones, and in general the regulated, prohibited and dangerous areas, will be established on a national basis, as well as sanctions for offenders.


Will new safety devices be installed on drones?

Yes, two in particular: Electronic Identification and Geo Awareness.
If necessary, the first will allow the authorities to remotely identify the owner of the drone.
The geo-awareness system, instead, will automatically block access of the aircraft to certain areas thanks to a software installed in the drone containing the coordinates of prohibited areas or high-risk areas.


With the new regulations, what will people who use drones as a hobby need to do?

Actually, the new regulation will remove the distinction between commercial and hobby operations. Therefore, anyone who wants to use a drone will have to meet the same requirements. For recreational drones, the reference category will most likely be the Open category. It is up to the operator to understand which of the five subcategories the drone falls into and, consequently, which requirements must be met.


What will change for companies that want to operate with drones?

Companies will also have to understand which category each operation falls into. For example, large companies that use drones for infrastructure monitoring (such as roads or electricity transport networks) often need BVLOS flights, which will therefore fall into the Specific category.
Companies will have to perform risk assessment analysis using the SORA methodology in order to define the requirements to meet, both technical and organizational.


How can EuroUSC Italia support drones users?

EuroUSC Italia provides consulting services to facilitate the commercial use of drones in different application areas.
The services offered include:

– assessment of feasibility of the operations in terms of regulation and safety, using the SORA methodology;
– support in the definition of the organizational structure for the management of the equipment and personnel involved;
– management of the procedures necessary for full operation.

Ask for a first quote to EuroUSC Italia, free of charge.

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