Small Drones Regulation in EU On Its Way

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) proposes regulations for the use of small drones. The project was published at the end of last week, and from 12 May to 12 August, comments, reactions, and additional suggestions will be gathered on how to bring about the massive penetration of such unmanned aerial vehicles into the European Union sky.

Proposals include the installation of technologies that prevent a dron from entering the forbidden territories and a package insert with instructions on what is prohibited and what is recommended for the owners to do before they turn on the appliance.

For nearly two years, the rapid expansion of this segment has been sought — either as a hobby or for business purposes — and regulators are trying to find such a compromise solution that the drones are used safely without hindering this industry from growing.

Of particular concern is the uncontrolled use of drones near and around airports. A number of pilots reported a close distance with similar devices and EASA set up a special commission to analyze the dangers of a droning collision.

Requirements

The agency’s proposals are designed for different categories of small drones. So there are also different limitations for the maximum height — from 50 to 120 meters above ground. Other proposed restrictions are that the drones can be remotely identified, equipped with technology that prevents them from entering over forbidden objects such as airports and nuclear power stations, for example, as well as mandatory registration of each owner of a drone weighing over 250 grams.

The regulations for small appliances weighing less than 150 grams are currently entrusted to individual EU member states, which has led to a fragmented legislation in which manufacturers such as the Chinese DJI and the French Parrot are trying to work.

EASA believes that the proposed regulations will be able to address security concerns and privacy. The requirements for the design of small drones will be introduced through the product legislation approved for the whole territory of the European Economic Area — CE Marking.

Categorization of operators

In addition, it is proposed to introduce four categories for aircraft operators, designated by C0 to C4. They provide for a different age for the users who use them — for example, there is no limit to C0, but for C1 at least 14 years of age (or supervised by at least 14 years), registration of the operator (or supervisor) and passing an online test. Until the use of C4, only 16 years of age (or supervisor of at least this age) will be allowed to register the operator and the drone and pass an online test.

There are also some wording that seriously limits the use of drones — a ban on flying over crowds of people, not to go under 20 meters of private property, not to fly over people, buildings or cars, and not to shoot people without their consent.

According to the risk that a drone could use, three categories with different requirements are also available:

- (open) low risk, no prior permission from the relevant authorities to use the unmanned vehicle

- (specific) medium risk for which competent authorities must prioritize a flight except for standard cases where only notification by the operator is sufficient

- (certified) high risk, not only is the express authorization of the authorities required, but also the drones meet certain requirements, is managed by a licensed pilot and the operator is approved for such activity.

After processing the reactions and comments received, EASA will prepare the final proposal at the end of the year.