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New EASA Drone Regulations – Threaten to Kill UK and European Drone Industry

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There are a new set of rules which have recently be published by EASA (the European version of the CAA and FAA). In response to a series of Drone scares, and fears about their safety, they have decided to release a massive document of safety regulations called the prototype. The Frist Document is 72 pages long and the second is a 60 page explanatory document (these are not half assed regulations). Unfortunately, it targets us DIY guys, the people who actually put in the most effort and care when it comes to safety.

The reason why this comes as such a surprise to the community is because the previous (draft) version of the document – The Technical Opinion – said that there would be a differentiation between Unmanned Drones and model aircraft. However, subsequently EASA have stated that they cannot differentiate between the two so now they have bundled the two together in a brutal semi-ban.

As First Person View said ‘EASA’s Prototype commission Regulation on Unmanned Aircraft Operations will destroy the European drone industry by limiting drones to 50m and 100m away from the operator in hardware! Homebuilt model aircraft and drones to be limited to 250g!’

Check out our assessment on the likelihood of fatality for Multi-Rotor Crashes

The Main Regulations

Under the proposed regulations, UAV’s (unmanned aircraft) will be grouped into 3 categories

Open

This category is the lowest risk and is for aircraft that do not need prior permission to fly. This category is further split into 4 more sub-categories. These are categories:

  1. A0
  2. A1
  3. A2
  4. A3

Specific

To fly in this category requires authorisation by the competent authorities. Unless it is declared you are sufficiently competent e.g. you have some form of qualification/ (like the PfAW in the UK).

Certified

This is for military drones, so we won’t discuss this license.

The Open category – DYI and AP ships

The open category is the one that affects all drone hobbyists, so that is what we will concentrate on.

If you want to fly a privately build UAV it must conform to the A0 category. This means it must:

  • Weigh less than 250g
  • Have a maximum speed of less than 15m/s (54km/h)
  • Remain within 100m of the pilot
  • Be limited to a maximum height of 50m

This means a ban of the vast majority of race quads. As they would breach at least 2 of these regulations. The categories A1-A3 do not allow for the use of privately built drones.

However here are the planned regulations regarding these categories:

  1. A1 –“Phantom” category
    1. Max voltage of 24V
    2. Max weight of 25kg
    3. Must be actively limited to 50m.
  2. A2
    1. Same rules as A1 but added on/changed are:
    2. Max voltage of 48V
    3. Must have auto return function (return to home)
    4. Must have a geofencing system in place.
    5. You must have training – and minimal noise (whatever that means)
  3. A3
    1. Same rules as A2 but added on/changed are:
    2. Must be actively limited to 150m
    3. You must be above 14+
    4. No point of failure – so full redundancies on everything!!! all the down to the compass and barometer – utterly impractical!

To fly an A1-A3 you must also register yourself with the relevant aviation authority (CAA in the UK). They also require every model aircraft to be registered with a kind of mini transponder, which is clearly too expensive and impractical for the majority of model UAV users. What category each make of drone will fall into will be decided by the EASA.

This Video Explains them in more detail:

Conclusions

These are not a set of pansy half assed regulations and technicalities that no one will listen to, these have the power to completely destroy the UK drones market and community, as well as the wider European community. They are clearly written by people who do not understand the hobby, or the extensive safety measure which almost all members of the community already utilise.

The biggest problem is that this is obviously politically incentivized and so goes way over the top in order to cover lazy, incompetent and unelected ministers and beaurocrats.  To make matters even worse for the UK, leaving the EU will not have any impact because the regulations are set to be invoked before article 50 is triggered and the CAA will take them up.

If you are reading this in the USA, Australia or any other part of world, please also email and protest the EASA. Because if these regulations go through it will set a president which could strangle the hobby out of existence all across the world.

What you can do:

Email UASPrototypeRule@easa.europa.eu about this issue. Do not copy someone else’s email. Only unique reponses will count.

Send a letter (non-template) to EASA / email to your local MP/MEP.

We have until mid October to save our hobby.

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26 comments

  1. What it the potential impact to the industry in the USA if these regulations are passed?
    How can I be a part of the solution to save this industry?

    • The USA could potentially get a boost if these regulations are passed.

      To save the industry email EASA, the email address is in the article.

    • We are not sure currently, it is likely that the FAA may follow the example set by these regulations. Best we can all do is write to the EASA and explain how bad and these rules are

    • Given I buy most of my parts from the USA, it could be quite a lot financially. But remember also that a lot of Europeans have contributed to the various open source drone projects that have directly lead to many of the commercial products available today. If we can’t fly we can’t test, can’t contribute really.
      Thousands of us signed the petitions to the FAA when the US drone community asked us to, reciprocate, please

  2. Where in the rules does it mention transponders? I’ve not seen that.

    • Article 4 regulation 3
      The operator shall ensure that UA are equipped with an electronic identification means, when required by
      UAS.OPEN.70 and UAS.OPEN.80.

    • No mention of transponders, only in this blogpost. 1 way telemetry or osd could fulfill that requirement.

  3. “Once again the actions of a few inexperienced flyers (mainly with off the shelf Drones) are impacting the wider community with possibly the best safety record of any hobby.”

    You should have that removed from your blog. We are not here to judge who caused this. I could argue for hours who caused this but I will just skip it.

    The biggest problem now is to somehow prevent these regulations to be implemented in their current state. I encourage everyone to send an email to EASA expressing their opinion in a civilized manner.

  4. Have written to the authorities involved.

    My issue is that the claims really do not address any safety concerns or criminalise any unwanted behaviour.

    The central issue here is risk to persons or property. I would support stronger regulation and penalties for flying near persons or property not within your control but if I have a 2km expanse of wilderness the range I fly at is pretty irrelevant.

  5. So I have read the core legislation now. It actually makes more allowances for FPV. The top speed and weight restrictions are problematic still but conceptually I understand that we can’t just keep building faster and faster machines without consequence. There is a measureable increase in danger. We are not far from the point where props could lop off bits off people in the wrong circumstance.

  6. The open A0 limitations are only for UNREGISTERED operators. DIY is all good, with LESS restrictions than A1-A3 over the shelf kits and RTF! Have someone who understands a legal document explain it for you..

    • Can you please provide direct quotes and page numbers from the EASA document(s) to back this up?

    • According to the document we would be exempt if flying as part of an authorised association such as the BMFA, on their sites.

      Beyond that, in my understanding, we would all be unregistered operators, unless we took the route designed for commercial use. To be a registered operator of A0 would mean:

      Flying an off the shelf model “complying with the product requirements” of the new specification.

      DIY models need to follow the weight and speed restrictions (about impossible)

      Following UAS.OPEN.30 eg:
      Registering as an UA operator (probably with CAA)

      “include in the registration form in Appendix I.1 a description
      of the structure of the organisation, including a statement that the UA will be operated only
      by remote pilots with a level of competency appropriate for conducting operations with a
      UA and appropriate to the category of the UAS; and
      (c) display the registration number on the UA.”

  7. Edvardas Dauksas

    What about banning golf business? Most of the golf pitches are surrounded by public paths, road and houses. If you near, then always tend to keep an eye for golf balls traveling over 300km/h, that could reach the distances of over 200m. And do you think someone has any chance of controlling the ball once it is in the air???? I do not think that banning drones and allowing only use wind kites will make public and their property safer.

  8. Although I don’t have one I have been told today that DJI are insisting that all their aircraft are now limilted as per the EU rules (150ft high etc) and that every drone that is returned for service/repair has to be reprogrammed with new firmware so as not to break these rules. All opertors have been e-mailed (alledgedly) about this and told to download new firmware immediately. A friend of mine has already sold his Phantom as a direct result of these rules.
    Has anyone else heard about this?

    • I’ve got a Phantom 4 and I haven’t been e-mailed. Furthermore the latest firmware V01.02.0503 dated of 2016-07-12 is installed and I still fly above 50m all the time.

  9. How do you register though. They haven’t made it clear how we are supposed to register. Do we do it online? Go into the post office? We need to know these things but they haven’t told us!

  10. Also, in the official document it says nothing about registration in A1 which is factory built, they talk about registration in A2 and above, but it also says you need registration for A1-3. WTH?

  11. I’m rellay into it, thanks for this great stuff!

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