Have you heard of the EASA Prototype?

If you’re a practicing commercial UAV pilot or have been thinking about gaining a licence, you will know that the world of aviation is controlled by many rules and regulations. And it is important to be fully aware of these guidelines in order to legally, safely and professionally progress within your career in commercial aviation. Last August, along with recent announcements from the CAA and the FAA regarding the updated ANO 2016 in the UK and the ‘Part 107’ rule that affected American pilots, Europe’s aviation governing body revealed that it had produced a ‘prototype’ regulation, suggesting its proposed rules in order to better ensure the safety of the public, and the aviation industry.

Who are EASA?

While the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is responsible for British airspace and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) looks after American skies, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is made up of aviation experts and administrators, with a mission of ‘promoting the highest common standards of civil aviation safety and environmental protection in Europe and worldwide. With headquarters in Cologne, Germany the organisation aims to ensure safety for EU citizens while working with other aviation regulators across the world. The ‘Prototype’ rule was released on 22 August 2016.

Even if Article 50 is triggered and Britain leaves the EU, there are no plans to leave EASA.

Why have EASA released a ‘Prototype’ regulation?

Essentially, EASA released this preliminary document so that the 32 member states could have an insight into the future responsibilities that they could soon be faced with, as well as providing clarity on the proposed rules in preparation for the formal process that will soon follow as they are implemented. (At UAVAir, we estimate this to be in around two years or so.) What’s more, EASA is interested in learning about what others in the industry think to the proposed rules and is encouraging readers to submit feedback, which will be used to develop the final ‘Notice of Proposed Amendments’, following on from the ‘Prototype’ release.

What are the key takeaways?

  • The EASA prototype refers to three classes of operations in the document: open (virtually unregulated), specific (commercial pilots or anyone completing a more complex operation that requires permission) and certified (very large unmanned aircraft). As the latter aircraft is unlikely to be in widespread use soon, the prototype focuses on open and specific mainly.
  • All open aircraft are to be manufactured in regulated factories, complying with CE standards. These will fall into categories, depending on their size.  A0, A1, A2, A3.
  • Only A0 classed drones (up to 200g) are allowed to be self built.
  • As part of these regulations, the smallest open aircraft (A0) is to be electronically limited to 50m of height 54 kmh speed and 100m away from you. Members of the drone racing community will be hit by these rules, and have appealed to EASA
  • Other A1 and A2 aircraft will also be electronically limited to a particular height.
  • Anyone wanting to fly an A1, A2 or A3 aircraft must be registered, similar to the registration system of cars today.
  • Stricter geofencing is to be used on these aircraft, centrally controlled at the EASA satellite office in Brussels. The exact limitations of this is not yet clear.
  • All aircraft will be required to transmit e-identification data, such as registration number, type of operation and location in flight. No consumer drone models on the market have this capability and should this go ahead, they will be deemed illegal without these facilities.
  • Aircraft must have a return to home, and no single point of failure. Again, no current consumer models on the market comply with this, making them redundant with these changes.

All changes outlined in the prototype are subject to parliamentary approval and as such, are unlikely to come into effect soon due to its drastic suggestions. However, your voice is important and we encourage all interested in the future of the use of commercial UAV’s to take a stand and let your opinion be heard.

What do you think?

You can read the ‘Prototype’ Commission Regulation on Unmanned Aircraft Operations here, to learn about the guidelines that have been planned by the European Aviation Safety Agency. Any thoughts can be submitted to the mailbox ‘UASPrototypeRule@easa.europa.eu. And as a member of the unmanned aircraft community we urge you to use your very valid voice in this landmark moment for the future of commercial UAV’s.

Drones, unmanned aircraft or UAV’s, however you refer them, are developing at an exponential rate and as such, creating whole new career opportunities and potential for business growth. This ‘Prototype’ regulation by the EASA is the first of what could be many more dedicated rules, designed with this exciting industry in mind.