Drone laws in Europe

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This page is a translated version of the page Drohnen-Gesetze in Europa and the translation is 100% complete.
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New EU-Regulation for drones since 2021

The EU Drone Regulation uniformly regulates flying with drones ("unmanned aerial vehicles") in the EU. The operation of model aircraft also falls under this regulation.

The EU Drone Regulation has been applicable in all EU member states since December 31, 2020. However, individual states can still define zones where flying is not permitted under any circumstances (no-fly zones), for example near airports or military installations.[1]

These regulations also apply in the United Kingdom as well as in the other member states of the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This has resulted in uniform regulation of airspace within the European Union. These regulations must be followed from December 31, 2020.

The EU's new regulations take a risk-based approach. The required conditions for a drone flight vary depending on the potential hazard. No distinction is made between private and commercial flights.[2]

With the new regulation, the clearance for flights of model aircraft with a total weight of up to 5 kilos and an altitude of no more than 30 meters above ground is considered to be granted across the board. For unmanned aerial vehicles up to 25 kilos total weight, this applies up to 50 meters flight altitude.[3]

Drone categories

"open" category

Open Category A1
Open Category A2
Open Category A3

The category "open" is particularly relevant for private use and includes - depending on the take-off weight - different classes of drones:

  • C0: Drones under 250 grams take-off weight.
  • C1: Drones from 250 grams to under 900 grams take-off weight
  • C2: drones from 900 grams to under 4 kilograms take-off weight
  • C3 and C4: drones from 4 kilograms to under 25 kilograms take-off weight

The drone CE marking (C0, C1, C2, C3 and C4) determines where and how a drone may be flown, especially at what distance from people. Anyone using a drone app and entering the appropriate CE marking can find out.[4].

Category "specific"

In the "specific" category, out-of-visibility flights (BVLOS) are allowed. This category is used for camera flights over populated areas or for flying over infrastructure.[4]

Category "certified"

The "certified" category is intended for drone operations in which the risk is comparable to that in manned aviation. This provides for certification of the aircraft. A certification is necessary in any case if the aircraft

  • for the transportation of persons or hazardous materials; or
  • for flying over crowds of people with drones over three meters in size[4]

CE-Definition

For the information of purchasers, manufacturers are obliged to label the products with a CE marking (C0 - C4) and to enclose an information sheet on obligations of the operator.

During the transition period, "older " drones already purchased before December 31, 2020, can also be used in the "open" category without CE marking under certain conditions. However, the operator of the drone must register online.

Subcategory

The subcategory is used to determine how close you are allowed to fly. Depending on the weight, the operating category "open" is divided into three subcategories: A1, A2 and A3. Depending on the subcategory, the pilot must meet different requirements.

  • Subcategory A1 – drone flights “close to people”
    • Classes C0 and C1 (maximum take-off weight under 900 g) and self-built under 250 g
    • Both drone classes (C0 and C1) may be operated in a “follow-me” mode (the drone follows its pilot at the push of a button) within 50 m; However, flying over uninvolved people is only permitted with a C0 drone (less than 250 grams).
  • Subcategory A2 – “Safe distance from people” (at least 30 meters)
    • Subcategory A2 is intended for heavier drones in class C2 (900 g to 4 kg). In this context, a minimum distance of 30 meters from uninvolved people is set. If the drone has a "low-speed mode" with a maximum of 3 m/s and the external circumstances such as weather permit it, this minimum distance can even be 5 meters be reduced.
  • Subcategory A3 – “Far from people” (at least 150 meters)
    • The last subcategory A3 concerns heavier drones with a maximum take-off weight of 900 g to 25 kg. This category includes C2, C3 and C4 drones and self-built devices with a take-off weight of up to 25 kg. Additional requirements apply to category A3:
      • The aircraft may only be operated at a distance of at least 150 m from residential, commercial, industrial or recreational areas.
      • No uninvolved people are allowed to remain in the flight area.

Continue to the overview table:

EASA provides clear information sheets for the categories [1].

Registration and drone license

Since December 31, 2020, all operators of drones weighing 250 grams or more (and also less than 250 grams for high-speed drones or drones with cameras) are required to register. This online registration obligation also applies to operators of model aircraft.

When operating or flying drones with a take-off weight of 250 grams or more, a drone operator's license is also mandatory. On the other hand, drones in the "open" category do not require a license.

But you only have to register once in your home country. The registration is then valid for the whole EU.[5]

Requirement for drone remote ID

Drone remote IDAlso, from 1st of January 2024 all drones marked C1, C2 and C3 and those operated in the specific category below 120m, will be required to operate with an active and updated remote identification (Remote ID). Drones marked C1, C2 and C3 will be sold already equipped with a remote identification system, which will locally broadcast the information related to the UA, such as the drone’s position and the operator registration number. This is done for security reasons and to allow to easily identify drones which may not be flying in compliance with the applicable rules. Also legacy drones (unless they are lighter than 250 g) are recommended to be equipped with a remote ID.[6]

Authorization by the authorities

According to the EU Drone Regulation, drone operations are categorized as "open", "specific" and "certified" based on weight and operational environment.

Official permits are only required for flying with drones in the categories "specific" or "certified", for the latter it is currently not yet possible, as the regulation for this is still being developed at the European level. In the category "open", which is mainly relevant for private use, a permit is only required if the requirements of this category are not met.

An operating license must then be obtained under the "specific" category.

Consolidated version of the regulation (EU) 2019/947[7], diese Fassung enthält in einem Dokument die Verordnungen (EU) 2019/947, 2020/639[8] und 2020/746[9], the text is for information purposes only and is not a binding version.

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References