How will the new EASA drone rules impact drone flying in the UK?

by | 28 Jun 2019

With the release of CAP 1789 by the CAA on 21st June 2019, we are starting to get a lot of questions about how the new EASA drone rules will impact the use of drones in the UK. As a result, we have tried to put this guide together. Please be aware that we are still in a state of flux and improving our understanding daily. So please treat this page as a live document. We will be continuously updating it, as we get information, to try and keep it correct as possible.

I am not going to try to rewrite CAP 1789, the CAA’s response to the regulations, as it is pretty clear. My aim is to look at direct impacts and future-proofing.

Overview of the new EU drone rules

A question we are being asked a lot at the moment is, “do the new EASA rules mean that the PfCO is dead?” Well, yes and no. The PfCO as it stands today will probably disappear, particularly as the new rules apply whether or not you are operating commercially. However, the concept of safe operations, as encapsulated in the PfCO, does not change. The rules, basically, become much more simply based on risk rather than whether or not you are earning money, which is the way it should be! Should it matter if one drone operator is earning money and another isn’t?… If they are flying in the same location then the risk of the flights is the same. The other key thing is that the EASA rules do not fully override CAA rules until July 2021 so, up to that point, the CAA can have their current rules in place, although they hope to have a lot of it up and running in advance.

As there is no pilot in the drone, the risk to the drone itself is subsidiary to the risk to people on the ground and other air users.

You must read CAP 1789 and try to get your head around it. It breaks everything down well and I can’t republish everything here so will be working in general principles.

UK operators and the CAA had a lot of input into the new EU rules. They really pave the way to an open drone market across the European Union. Hopefully, Brexit won’t get in the way of that too much. It is likely that, regardless of Brexit, the CAA will mirror the regulations so hopefully it will be beneficial for UK operators who want to operate in other EU countries.

The rules have been developed by a number of entities but are being coordinated by EASA. In simple terms there are seen to be two ways to make drone operations safer:

  • The use of equipment built to European safety standards
  • A risk assessment that takes into account the risk of the operation and competence of the remote pilot.

Under the EASA rules there are three categories of drone use.  These are summaries, I hope to expand further blogs for each category.

open category

Low or no risk to third parties

Basic, predefined operational characteristics

no authorisation required

Basic level of training

specific category

Too complex or risky to be carried out in the open category

Operational authorisation required from the CAA

level of training depends on risk

~

certified category

Risk equivalent to manned aviation

Certification of aircraft and operator required

High level of training and licensing

Timeline for the implementation of the new rules

The first phase of the new regulations is drone registration. Drone registration in the UK is intended to go live on 1st of October 2019 and will be enforced from 30th November 2019. This is formally a separate process from the PfCO, but there is some discussion about pulling PfCO holders in automatically. Watch this space.

 

drone registration in the UK opens

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Although the EASA drone rules were released in June 2019, they do not come into force in the UK until 1 July 2020. This is to allow time for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Department for Transport (DfT) to bring the UK legislation into line. More information on the transition arrangements will be released later this year. All national arrangements that are different from the EU rules must be phased out by 1 July 2021.

 

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Transition rules end on 30th June 2022. Legacy drones without CE marking can no longer be used in certain categories. In some categories, legacy and privately built drones will always be able to be used.

 

transition period ends

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Will I need new drones?

That depends on what you want to do! This is where we need to dig into the categories a bit. The aim of the “Open” Category is that everything under it will eventually be achievable with off-the-shelf drones, specifically built for each subcategory, with a series of requirements of use included with the drone at the point of purchase. The table on the final page of CAP 1789 covers this well.

The new drones, that can be released after 1st July 2019, will be CE marked in one of 5 categories C0-C4. Any off the shelf drone that is not CE marked is classed as “legacy”. There is also a separation for privately built drones.

CE marking CANNOT be retrospectively applied to drones, so there is no point in trying to shave 7g off your Mavic 2 Pro!

Some legacy drones will be able to be used in Open category until 30th June 2022 but they either have more stringent weight or distance requirements.

Drone requirements

Closed
Open category - Subcategory A1
  • For C0 and C1 class drones
  • Low or no risk to people
  • Overflight of uninvolved people allowed (but not crowds) by drones in class C0
  • Intentional overflight not permitted by class C1
Open category - Subcategory A2
  • For C2 class drones
  • Distance requirements from uninvolved people
  • 30m horizontal distance with a C2 class drone
  • 5m horizontal distance permitted in a “low speed mode” of <3m/s
Open category - Subcategory A3
  • For C3 and C4 class drones
  • No uninvolved people in the area of the flight
  • must be 150m horizontally from residential, commercial, industrial or recreational areas
  • Drones of up to 25kg can be used in this subcategory, including privately built and legacy drones
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Will I require training?

Remember, under EASA drone rules, there is no longer a separation between recreational and commercial operations. As a result, training requirements will increase with the risk the flight poses and the equipment used. Please see page 9 of CAP 1789 as well.

Training may be online only, or a combination of training and assessment based on the risk of the operation. The UK training regime will be overseen by the CAA and we expect more information on the NQE role in autumn 2019, when the first part of the new version of CAP 722 is released.

It is likely that a lot of current operations will need to come under the Specific category. There are likely to be some “grandfathering” rights from the current PfCO/CAA proof of competence to assist current operators to move into the Specific category. The Specific category will require a higher level of training and will be roughly at the level of the PfCO and OSC proofs of competency (more detail to follow).

The Certified category goes far beyond where most drone operators will be for the moment and I will release more information when I get it.

 

 

Training and registration requirements

Closed
Open Category - A1 - C0
  • Registration required if camera equipped but not a toy
  • Read user manual
  • Online training (if not a toy)
  • Online foundation test (if not a toy)
Open Category - A1 - C1
  • Registration required
  • Read user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test
Open Category - A2 - C2
  • Registration required
  • Read user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test
  • Self-practical training
  • Certificate of Competence theoretical test
Open Category - A3 - C3 and C4
  • Registration required
  • Read user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test
Specific Category
  • Registration required
  • This has variable training requirements ranging from the basic foundation test all the way up to a potential Remote Pilot Licence (RPL). The level of training will be dictated by risk.
  • ‘Standard Scenarios’ with known risk profiles will be written over the next few years. The required training will be built into the Standard Scenario requirements.
  • The Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC) will be of interest to some operators in this category.
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Your Questions Answered

This section will only appear if you are a member of School of Drones or signed up for one of our courses.

I hope that helps, if you think any of this is wrong or you have further questions, please let me know on the Facebook group or at elliottisneverwrong@dronetraining.co.uk

Fly safe!