From December 31, 2020, new and uniform EU drone rules apply to every UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) pilot. There are new categories for different types of drones as well as a set of rules that apply to each category. let’s take a closer look!
First of all, every pilot, regardless of the drone used, is required to register. Even if you are flying a sub-250g drone, such as the DJI Mavic Mini 2, this rule applies. Everyone must register with their respective country of residence, and since these new rules apply to the EU plus the UK, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland, residents of those countries must also register.
EU drone rules for 2021
These new EU drone rules seem a bit overwhelming, but to be honest, I think these rules are very necessary and once you digest them, they are pretty easy to follow. More importantly, it’s a single set of rules for the entire EU, which makes it easier for professional drone pilots to fly in different countries without having to constantly deal with new rules.
So, to break it down, here are the three steps you need to take to fly a drone in 2021:
- You need to be registered and you need to pass an online test
- Display your registration number on the drone and upload it onto the e-identification system
- Make sure you are adequately insured
Open, specific and certified category
From here on, things split up a bit depending on what kind of drone you want to fly. First, there’s what’s called a low-risk or open category, which is in turn divided into three subcategories: A1, A2, and A3. These differ mainly in terms of MTOM (Maximum Take-Off Mass) and speed. The open category covers most entry-level drones.
- A1: weight is below 250g // MTOM is less than 900g // speed is 19m/s or less // can be flown over people but not crowds
- A2: weight is less than 2kg // MTOM is less than 4kg // must be flown at least 50m away from people
- A3: MTOM is less than 25kg // must be flown at least 150m away from people
Further up there are medium-risk (specific-category) and high-risk (certified-category) categories for which stricter rules apply (you need a special permit to fly, UAS will have to be approved by the national aviation authority based on a risk assessment). For all the open categories (low-risk), you must adhere to the following rules, regardless of which calass applies to your specific drone:
- Maximum flight altitude: 120 m above ground
- Minimum age of pilot: 16 years old
- No transport of dangerous goods
- Do not take photographs, videos or sound recordings of people without their permission. Respect people’s privacy
- No dropping of objects
- Drone must be within sight
UAS classes C0 – C4
And then there is a set of classes of UAS: C0 – C4. Drones that fall into these classes can be operated within the open categories A1-A3 without a special permit, but the higher the number gets, the stricter the rules you have to follow.
Drones purchased before January 1, 2021, most likely do not have a CE class label and can therefore be flown in the low-risk or open category (A1 – A3) for the time being. However, after January 1, 2023, these drones may only be flown in the limited category.
Drones purchased after January 1 of this year will likely carry a CE class label (C0 – C4) and will be required to comply with the regulations applicable to that category. Here’s a PDF for reference.
Since this all seems a bit complicated, which I’m sure it is, I think if you know what category you’re in, the process is pretty straightforward since these rules apply for the whole EU then. Here’s a neat little online tool which helps you determing your drone’s category. The website dronerules.eu is also a helpful resource, make sure to check it out here.
What do you think? Is this new uniform set of EU drone rules a good thing to have or is it just overwhelming? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!