The EU Drone Regulations arrived. Are you ready?

On the first of January new drone regulations are introduced for operations across the whole continent. These can seem overwhelming and rather difficult to handle with in the future. However, at Inflights, the new EU regulations will significantly simplify the day-to-day operations. For Inflights the horizon looks even brighter with the introduction of the new regulations.

Simplification of drone categories

Before the introduction of the new EU regulations, requesting a permit to fly in certain airspace zones could be sometimes tedious. The recent changes will reduce these past struggles, mainly due to the recategorization of the drones. Starting this year, only three categories over the whole continent are distinguished, namely the “open”, “specific” and “certified” categories.

All flights with low-weighted drones and flying from a safe distance from people will henceforth fall under the “open” category. This category does not require any additional permits. The “open” category is further divided in 3 subcategories: A1, A2 and A3. They differ in the maximal authorized drone weight and the accepted distance between the flying drone and surrounding people.

All other flights, not categorized under “open”, are categorized as “specific. This means that extra permits and/or licenses are required. Inflights is currently developing a framework for the flight operations in order to support pilots in their future requests for flying “specific”. The last category, “certified”, is of no concern for the flights performed under Inflights. It is an anticipated categorization related to operations with freight and passengers.

Additionally, an operational authorization is required for the “specific” category unless the operation is covered by a standard scenario (STS). Standard scenarios are predefined operations provided by the EU-regulations. If the operation does not fall under one of the STS, two ways exist for requesting an official authorization: the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) and the Predefined Risk Assessment (PRDA). The prior is a methodology for assessing the risk related to the planned operations and will be verified by the National Aviation Authority (NAA). The latter is a predefined assessment published by the EASA. If the operation is covered by the PRDA, then the simplified form attached to the PRDA can be submitted to the NAA instead of performing a full SORA.

In Practice

Flight in CTR - The new regulations facilitate certain flights within the CTR that were complex to perform in the past due to the administrative procedure to get an official authorization. For illustrative purposes, a flight is planned at Tervuren, Belgium. This flight is only 10 km away from Brussels airport. However, the location is not on the trajectory of any runway. Hence, this flight falls into the “open” category up to 150 ft/45 m AGL and into the “specific” if flown up to 400 ft/120 m AGL. Currently, many flights at Inflights are operated above 45 m. With the new regulations, we are considering a new approach for flight operations within CTR where the flight configurations will be kept within the “open” category if possible.

CE-labeling

Another important regulation change will be implemented regarding the CE-labeling of drones. CE is a label indicating that a product is meeting all european standards required to be sold on the market. Starting in January 2023, every drone on the market will get an additional label based on its weight. For the “open” category four C-labels are confirmed: C1, C2, C3 and C4. Two labels are expected for the “specific” category, but not confirmed yet. Depending on the C-label, the drone will be allowed to fly at a specific maximal speed and altitude. Furthermore, current drones will be allowed to fly without the C-label until January 2023. In addition, It will be possible to label current drones in the coming 2 years in order to comply with the C-label obligation starting in 2023. New drones, bought since January 2021, will automatically obtain the C-label before purchase.

Advantages for Inflights

Inflights perceives a potential improvement of the flight operations. The simplification of categorization is a significant advantage for a large proportion of the missions at Inflights. The main reason being that many flights will fall under the “open” category. Where in the past sometimes a permit was needed for flights in certain airspace zones, those permits will no longer be needed. Moreover, the remaining flights, falling under “specific”, will be handled systematically at Inflights, providing all the support needed to the community pilots. Nonetheless, the practical implementation of all the regulations is still an ongoing process. We understand that it will complicate some flights for which the regulatory framework will not yet be fully functional. Hence, Inflights will keep you informed over the latest updates regarding the regulations and inform you over Inflights’ approach in coping with these regulations.

Despite a considerable amount of new rules for flying drones in Europe, we believe that these will ultimately facilitate our collaboration with our pilot community and increase the operation efficiency.

Benyamin De Leeuw from Inflights
Benyamin De Leeuw