The UK drone rules will change as from July 1st 2020
As from July 1st 2020 drone operators will need to comply with the new regulations set out by the European Union. Regardless of Brexit, these rules will be in force for the UK and will harmonise the use of drones throughout the European Union. The new regulations introduce three categories which are all operation centric and focus on risk as apposed to the current 'Commercial' aspect.
This will mean that as long as you satisfy the requirements for your operation in terms of risk, you can use your drone for commercial or hobby use. Lets look at these changes further...
Operations that present a low (or no) risk to third parties.
Operations are conducted in accordance with basic and pre-defined characteristics and are not subject to any further authorisation requirements.
Operations that present a greater risk than that of the Open category, or where one or more elements of the operation fall outside the boundaries of the Open category.
Operations will require an operational authorisation from the CAA, based on a safety risk assessment.
Similar to current Permission for Commercial Operations (PFCO).
Operations that present an equivalent risk to that of manned aviation and so will be subjected to the same regulatory regime (i.e. certification of the aircraft, certification of the operator, licensing of the pilot)
Open Category Classes
A1 (fly ‘over’ people) – Operations in subcategory A1 can only be conducted with unmanned aircraft that present a very low risk of harm or injury to other people due to their low weight (less than 250g), their type of construction, or because they are a ‘toy1’ (i.e. they are ‘inherently harmless’). However, flight over open-air assemblies of people is not permitted.
A2 (Fly ‘close to’ people) – Operations in subcategory A2 can only be conducted with an unmanned aircraft that is compliant with a specific product standard (and a maximummass of less than 4kg), but this unmanned aircraft can be flown to a minimum safe horizontal distance of 30 metres from uninvolved people, or down to 5 metres horizontally when its ‘low speed mode’ is selected. In addition, the remote pilot must have successfully completed an additional competency examination in order to operate in this subcategory.
A3 (Fly ‘far from’ people) – This category covers the more general types of unmanned aircraft operations. The intent is that the unmanned aircraft will only be flown in areas that are clear of uninvolved persons and will not be flown in areas that are used for residential, commercial, industrial or recreational purposes (roughly equivalent to what is currently referred to as a ‘congested area’).
The simplest description of a Specific category operation is that it is a UAS operation that ‘cannot be done within the Open category, but is not complicated enough for the certified category’.
The key point to note is that the category hinges on an operational authorisation being held by the UAS operator, which has been issued by the CAA, before the operation can be commenced.
For UK UAS operators, the process should be very similar to the current permissions and exemptions process in that the UAS operator is required to tell the CAA:
- What, where and how the unmanned aircraft will be operated;
- Demonstrate that the operation is ‘safe enough’ through the provision of a safety risk
- assessment/safety case.
Class C0 - (can be flown in all subcategories) Very small unmanned aircraft, including toys, that:
- are less than 250g maximum take-off mass
- have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx. 42.5 mph)
- are unable to be flown more than 120m (400ft) from the controlling device
Class C1 – (can be flown in all subcategories) Unmanned aircraft that:
- less than 900g maximum take-off mass, or;
- are made and perform in a way that if they collide with a human head, the energy transmitted will be less than 80 Joules
- have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx. 42.5 mph)
- designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to peopleThe standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits, height limits and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems.
Class C2 – (can be flown in subcategory A2 [close to people] or A3 (far from people) Unmanned aircraft that:
- are less than 4kg maximum take-off mass
- designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people
- are equipped with a low-speed mode’ which limits the maximum speed to 3m/s (approx. 6.7 mph) when selected by the remote pilotThe standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits (but different from C1), height limits and requirements for remote identification and geoawareness systems, plus additionalrequirements if it is to be used during tethered flight.
Class C3 – (flown in subcategory A3 [far from people] only) Unmanned aircraft that possess automatic control modes (such as found in typical multicopter ‘drones’) which:
- are less than 25kg maximum take-off massThe standards also cover other aspects covering height limits and requirements for remote identification and geoawareness systems. There are also additional requirements if it is to be used during tethered flight, but there is no specified noise limit (because the aircraft is intended to be flown ‘far from people’).
Class C4 – (flown in subcategory A3 [far from people] only) Unmanned aircraft that do not possess any automation, other than for basic flight stabilisation (and so are more representative of a ‘traditional’ model aircraft) which:
- Are less than 25kg maximum take-off mass