Introduction of a regulatory framework for the operation of drones


Overview of the proposals:

Proposal 1: It is proposed to regulate commercial and non-commercial operations as the identical drone might be used for both commercial and non-commercial activities with the same risk to uninvolved parties.

Proposal 2: Three categories will be established for the operation of drones:
— ‘Open’ category (low risk): safety is ensured through operations limitations, compliance with industry standards, and the requirement to have certain functionalities and a minimum set of operational rules. Enforcement mainly by the police.
— ‘Specific category’ (medium risk): authorisation by an NAA possibly assisted by a Qualified Entity (QE) following a risk assessment performed by the operator. A manual of operations lists the risk mitigation measures.
— ‘Certified’ category (higher risk): requirements comparable to those for manned aviation. Oversight by NAA (issue of licences and approval of maintenance, operations, training, ATM/ANS and aerodromes organisations) and by the Agency (design and approval of foreign organisations).

Proposal 3: EASA MS have to designate the responsible authorities for the enforcement of the regulations. It is proposed not to include the oversight of the ‘open’ and ‘specific’ categories into the EU aviation system. This will provide the EASA MSs with the required flexibility at local level, thus not being subject to EASA oversight (‘EASA Standardisation’).

Proposal 4: QEs will be approved and audited by the NAAs or the Agency to ensure their adherence to common rules.

Proposal 5: ‘Open’ category operation is any operation with small drones under direct visual line of sight with an MTOM of less than 25 kg operated within safe distance from persons on the ground and separated from other airspace users.

Proposal 6: To prevent unintended flight outside safe areas and to increase compliance to applicable regulations, it is proposed to mandate geofencing and identification for certain drones and operation areas.

Proposal 7: To ensure safety, environmental protection, and security and privacy, the competent authorities can define ‘no-drone zones’ where no operation is allowed without authority approval, and ‘limited-drone zones’ where drones must provide a function to enable easy identification and automatic limitation of the airspace they can enter and should have a limited mass.

Proposal 8: Standards for identification and geofencing functions will be endorsed by the Agency and could be referenced in the market regulations system in order to ensure that the majority of consumer products comply with these standards and to ensure harmonisation at technical level. This will enable manufacturers to develop adequate equipment and to declare compliance with these standards.

Proposal 9: The Agency will define a commonly used data format (e.g. for map data) that should be used to provide the information in an open web interface. This information could be made available through service providers, presented through a smartphone app, or directly uploaded to the drone.

Proposal 10: Manufacturers and importers of drones have to comply with the applicable product safety Directive, and will have to issue information to respective customers on operational limitations applicable to the ‘open’ category. The market regulations will be applicable to smaller drones and an upper threshold needs to be established.

Proposal 11: Essential requirements for the intended general product safety directive and related standards will be developed with the involvement of the Agency defining the safety characteristics (e.g. kinetic energy, performance, characteristics, loss-of-link capability) appropriate for the category and subcategory of the drone.

Proposal 12: All drone operations in the ‘open’ category must be conducted within the defined
— Only flights in direct visual line of sight of the pilot are allowed.
— Only drones with a maximum take-off mass below 25 kg are allowed.
— No operation of drones in ‘no-drone zones’ is permitted.
— Drones operating in ‘limited-drone zones’ must comply with the applicable
— The pilot is responsible for the safe separation from any other airspace user(s)
and shall give right of way to any other airspace user(s).
— A drone in the ‘open’ category shall not operate at an altitude exceeding
150 m above the ground or water.
— The pilot is responsible for the safe operation and safe distance from
uninvolved persons and property on the ground and from other airspace
users and shall never fly the drone above crowds (> 12 persons).

Proposal 13: For any drone operation over 50 m above ground, basic aviation awareness shall be required for the pilot.

Proposal 14: Create three subcategories in the ‘open’ category: — CAT A0: ‘Toys’ and ‘mini drones’ < 1 kg — CAT A1: ‘Very small drones’ < 4 kg — CAT A2: ‘Small drones’ < 25 kg

Proposal 15: Additional requirements for CAT A0: ‘Toys’ and ‘mini drones’ < 1 kg:
— Any drone sold as a toy or consumer product with a mass below 1 kg could comply with the applicable product safety Directive and shall have limited performance to assure flight below 50 m above ground and local operation or alternatively the means to automatically limit the altitude and the airspace they can enter.
— Operation shall be performed below 50 m above ground.

Proposal 16: Additional requirements for CAT A1: ‘Very small drones’ < 4 kg:
— Any drone sold as a consumer product which is heavier than 1 kg could comply with the applicable general product safety Directive and shall have the means to automatically limit the airspace it can enter and the means to allow automatic identification.
— Drones operating in the ‘limited-drone zones’ shall have active identification and up-to-date geofencing capability enabled.
— For any operation over 50 m above ground, the pilot needs to have basic aviation awareness.
— Any failures, malfunctions, defects or other occurrences that lead to severe injuries to or fatalities of any person need to be reported.

Proposal 17: Additional requirements for CAT A2: ‘Small drones’ < 25 kg
— Any drone sold as a consumer product which is heavier than 4 kg could comply with the applicable general product safety Directive and shall have the means to automatically limit the airspace it can enter and the means to allow automatic identification.
— Operation in the ‘limited-drone zones’ is not permitted in the ‘open’ category for drones with a take-off mass above 4 kg.
— For any operation over 50 m above ground, the pilot needs to have basic aviation awareness.
— Any failures, malfunctions, defects or other occurrences that lead to severe injuries to or fatalities of any person need to be reported to the Agency.

Proposal 18: In dedicated areas the operation of drones (or models) can be performed in the ‘open’ category according to the conditions and procedures defined by the competent authority.

Proposal 19: Tethered aircraft up to a mass of 25 kg or a defined volume for aircraft lighter than air can be operated in the ‘open’ category outside ‘no-drone zones’ below 50 m above ground or water, or in dedicated areas notified to other airspace users.

Proposal 20: ‘Specific risk operation’ is any operation with drones which poses more significant aviation risks to persons overflown or which involves sharing the airspace with manned aviation. Each specific aviation risk needs to be analysed and mitigated through a safety risk assessment.

Proposal 21: A safety risk assessment shall be performed by the operator taking into account all the elements that contribute to the risk of the particular operation. For this purpose, the operator shall:
— provide to the competent NAA all the information required for a preliminary applicability check of the category of operation;
— provide to the competent authority a safety risk assessment covering both the drone and the operation, identifying all the risks related to the specific operation, and proposing adequate risk-mitigation measures.
— compile an appropriate Operations Manual containing all the required information, descriptions, conditions and limitations for the operation, including training and qualification for personnel, maintenance of the drone and its systems, as well as occurrence reporting and oversight of suppliers.

Proposal 22: The competent authority of the State of the operator shall be responsible to issue the OA after the review of and agreement with the operator’s safety risk assessment and the Operations Manual in the ‘specific’ category.

Proposal 23: The operation shall be performed according to the limitations and conditions defined in the OA:
— The operator shall not carry out specific operations, unless holding a valid operation authorisation.
— The operator shall ensure that all involved personnel is sufficiently qualified and familiar with the relevant operation procedures and conditions.
— Before the initiation of any operation, the operator is responsible to collect the required information on permanent and temporarily limitations and conditions and to comply with any requirement or limitation defined by the competent authority or to request specific authorisation.

Proposal 24: The operation in the ‘specific’ category might be performed with drones or equipment that is certified or otherwise approved. The operation might exceed the operational limitations for the certified equipment when specifically authorised and when the operation ensures application of adequate risk mitigations as identified in the OA.

Proposal 25: Operators may voluntarily make use of suppliers or personnel holding certificates or voluntarily apply for a Remote Operator Certificate (ROC) detailing the means on how responsibilities are shared and having adequate privileges to authorise operations.

Proposal 26: Equipment, parts and functionalities might be approved independently from the drone itself and an approval may be granted. The IRs will define the required processes based on the ‘European Technical Standard Order (ETSO)’ process. The process for release and continuing airworthiness oversight needs to be adapted as equipment might not be installed on certified drones. This might cover ground stations or qualified ‘detect and avoid equipment’ installed on drones in the ‘specific’ category.

Proposal 27: The IRs define the organisational requirements for the operator to qualify for a ROC and to obtain adequate privileges in order to authorise/modify its own operations.

Proposal 28: It is proposed that industry and standardisation bodies be requested to provide standard solutions to address the safety risks, e.g. for airworthiness aspects. Together with standard Operations Manuals, the safety risk assessment process would be simplified.

Proposal 29: In order to operate a drone in the ‘certified’ category, the airworthiness of the aircraft and its compliance with environmental standards shall be ensured in the same way as it is done today for manned aviation by issuing a TC or Restricted Type Certificate (RTC) for the type, and a CofA or restricted CofA for the particular drone.

Proposal 30: The organisations responsible for the design, production, maintenance and training shall demonstrate their capability by holding respectively design, production, maintenance and training organisation approvals when required due to the risk posed by the operation.

Proposal 31: The pilot shall be licensed and the operator shall hold a ROC.

Proposal 32: CSs will be adopted by the Agency covering a broad range of different drone configurations, defining the safety objectives. They will be supplemented by industry standards endorsed by the Agency to allow for fast reaction on developments and might also cover operational and licensing aspects.

Proposal 33: It is currently not foreseen to separate the IRs for the ‘certified’ category from the IRs for manned aviation.

This first post is not open for general discussion. Proposal for comment: