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New EU Drone Regulations to Go Ahead in the UK

  • New European drone regulations coming in December 2020;
  • The new rules have the potential to unlock more flying opportunities for more people;
  • The PfCO is being replaced by a new system;
  • 3 new categories of operations are being introduced, relating to the level of risk involved in your flight; 
  • New drone classes will be introduced based on weight and other specifications.

You need to be aware of new drone regulations that are set to be introduced from December 31 2020. The biggest change is the removal of the PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations). 

The changes have come about as part of an effort to align with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and build on the recently-introduced Drone and Model Aircraft Registration Scheme in the UK.

The new rules will place the emphasis on what type of drone you have, rather than commercial versus non-commercial and all of the associated ambiguity and limitations.

One example of how these changes will affect your flying is that you may now fly over people or even get as close as five metres to people – opening up the range of potential operations.

If you currently have a PfCO you can continue to use your licence and renew with the provisions currently afforded by the permissions for the foreseeable future. The Operational Authorisation will replace the PfCO.

Three categories of operations will be introduced relating to risk:

  • Open Category: Low-risk operations will not require any authorisation, but will be subject to strict operational limitations.
  • Specific Category: For medium-risk operations, operators will have to require an authorisation from the national aviation authority on the basis of a standardised risk assessment or a specific scenario.
  • Certified Category: In case of high-risk operations, classical aviation rules will apply.

These changes will allow a large number of drone operators to perform operations that currently they are restricted from and are necessary to keep up with the pace of advancing technology.


Background To The Changes

In December 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) released Version 2 of Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 722B. The release of the document marks the beginning of the transition of National Legislation to align and harmonise with that of other member states within the European Union (EU). 

The document follows the release of CAP 1789 last year which outlined the EU regulation package. The implementing regulation will officially come into force on December 31 2020, although you will notice NQEs – such as Hummingbird UAV – getting ready for the transition in well in advance of that date.


Will Brexit Have An Impact?

According to the CAA, as things currently stand, the plan is still to implement the new regulations on December 31, 2020. It is worth noting that this is a Government decision and not the CAA’s.


What Do The New Regulations Mean?

In November 2019, the CAA launched the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration Scheme (DMARES); the first step to align with the EU regulations. Within the first month of the scheme’s launch, in-excess of 67,000 registrations were made; either as Operators or Flyers of Unmanned Aircraft.

The CAA DMARES not only facilitates national registration but also introduced a basic competency for any Remote Pilot of Small Unmanned Aircraft weighing 250g or greater. 

The system seeks to ensure any individual flying a drone understands the basic safety principles in relation to their aircraft, airspace and themselves as a remote pilot.

With DMARES now in full-swing, any drone of 250g or greater must be marked with the operator’s identification number issued by the CAA once the DMARES 20-question multiple-choice examination has been successfully completed. 

On December 31, 2020, any operator of a drone which weighs less than 250g but has a camera (other than a toy), such as the new DJI Mavic Mini, must also be registered.


Removing The Distinction Between Commercial And Non-commercial Operations

Gone is the distinction between commercial and non-commercial drone operations. 

Until 31 December 2020, in order to operate a drone in a commercial capacity, any individual or organisation will still need to attain a PfCO from the CAA.


A Guide To The Categories

Within the Open Category there are three individual subcategories, broken up by aircraft, competency requirement and operating distance of the drone in relation to uninvolved persons.

It is the most exciting category as it has the potential to open up more operations for more people.

Types of Drone

The new regulations replace the current weight classifications of drones from that of a Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) weighing between 0-20kg and UAS weighing in-excess of 20kg. 

Drones sold publicly and intended for Open Category use must be marked by manufacturers as complying with 1 of 5 classes, as shown in the table below.

The revised drone classifications now incorporate the Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM), maximum speed, sound power level and potential impact energy transference for any drone which is operated within the Open Category.

C0Are less than 250g maximum take-off mass;

Have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx 42.5mph);

Are unable to be flown more than 120m (400ft) from the controlling device.

C1Either less than 900g maximum take-off mass or are made and perform in a way that if they collide with a human head, the energy transmitted will be less than 80 Joules.

Have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx 42.5mph);

Designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people.

The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits, height limits, and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems.

C2Are less than 4kg maximum take-off mass;

Designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people;

Are equipped with a ‘low-speed mode’ which limits the maximum speed to 3m/s (approx 6.7mph) when selected by the remote pilot.

The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits (but different from C1), height limits and requirements for remote identification and geoawareness systems, plus additional requirements if it is to be used during tethered flight. 

C3Are less than 25kg maximum take-off mass
C4Unmanned aircraft that do not possess any automation, other than for basic flight stabilisation (and so are more representative of a ‘traditional’ model aircraft) which are less than 25kg maximum take-off mass.

Training Requirements

Hummingbird UAV has already begun the transition process from an CAA-approved NQE to an RAE, to deliver courses for recommending individuals and organisations for both the A2 Certificate of Competency (CofC) and the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC). 

Further information will be made available in early 2020 in preparation for our transition, via Hummingbird UAV’s website and social media channels.

Operating a drone in each category has a varied requirement depending on the level of competence. The most basic requirement is that every remote pilot should have read the comprehensive user manual provided with the drone. 

From there the CAA’s DMARES training and examination must also be undertaken by each operator and flyer.


A2 Certificate of Competency (CoC) 

Hummingbird UAV’s A2 CoC course will be available from 1 January 2021 and consists of a prescribed theoretical syllabus, delivered by Hummingbird’s expert training instructors, followed by completion of a multiple-choice examination. 

On successful completion of the course and examination, candidates must complete one of the following: 

  • a self-guided practical flight training
  • or a practical flight training with an RAE such as Hummingbird. 

Following which, the candidate will be issued with a certificate of remote pilot competency for the A2 subcategory.


General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC)

Operators will need to have a GVC if they are operating a drone weighing more than 4kg.

The GVC course will be available from 1 January 2020 and consists of a prescribed theoretical syllabus delivered by Hummingbird’s expert training instructors, followed by completion of a multiple-choice examination.

Once the course is complete, candidates are required to produce an Operations Manual embracing the applicable PDRA and/or STS and will undergo a practical flight assessment with a flight examiner. Following successful completion, candidates will receive a recommendation for the issue of the GVC. 


What if you already operate under an existing PfCO?

Permissions and exemptions valid beyond December 31, 2020, will still remain valid until their expiration date. 

Individuals and organisations must consider whether they wish to then re-apply to operate in the Specific Category under an Operational Authorisation, or undertake the A2 CoC training with an RAE.

Hummingbird is pleased to offer renewal consultation to assist individuals and organisations implementation of the regulations.



In summary, while these changes may appear daunting at first, they seek to introduce some quite unique opportunities to operate drone safety and open up more flight options for more people. 

For more information and to clarify anything, give us a call and speak to our helpful training instructors who will be on standby to advise and assist on suitable options.

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