Due to the pandemic, the European Union drone regulations set for release in June 2020 were postponed to the end of 2020. From January 1st, 2021, these new standardized drone regulations will apply across the EU and follow a risk-based approach for each drone, removing distinguishments between leisure or commercial activities.

With all the differences in regulations between countries in the EU, it’s hard to keep track of what you can and can’t do with a drone. Be it for recreational or professional use, EASA’s new EU regulations should help to ease that hurdle and create a more straightforward approach to all drone operations.

“While drone operators in Portugal must use drones weighing less than 25 kg and carry third-party limited liability insurance of up to 1 million euros, the same rule may not apply in neighboring Spain,” Pierre-Alain Marchand, Regulatory Compliance Manager at senseFly, wrote. “This difference causes confusion and has stalled drone adoption in the EU. But by standardizing the rules, the EU hopes to make drone operations easier and safer for everyone.” 

With the new risk-based approach, drones will now be classified into three different categories: open, specific, and certified. Additionally, and for the first time, manufacturers will be accountable for ensuring drone compliance, as they will be obliged to mark the drone with a class ranging from C0 to C6, defined by their technical characteristics. These two factors will come into play when deciding which type of operation you want to run, and the drone you’ll use. 

Aware of all these changes, some manufacturers, like senseFly, are already preparing to help their customers make the transition. During the initial two-year ‘Limited Open Category’ transition period, the company claims it will make sure “drone operators have all the support they need by keeping them up-to-date and informed on the latest rules and procedures,” and the senseFly eBee X, eBee Plus, eBee SQ and eBee Classic are all allowed to fly close to people (50m), which will change when this period ends.

“We anticipate exciting progress in realizing the full potential of UAVs and making advanced operations, such as beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) and operations over people (OOP), more routine,” senseFly said. “It is also likely that the rules will help streamline drone safety and airspace integration across the continent, as flights become more regulated. Although the rules only apply to Europe, we predict civil aviation authorities in the US, Canada, and further afield will be taking a keen interest in developments over the next couple of years. Indeed, progress continues to be made in the global regulatory field: the result of increased collaboration with forward-thinking authorities and standardization bodies as we as an industry continue to make great strides toward our collective goal.”

Furthermore, drone operators will need to register themselves with their CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to get a UAS Operator ID. However, registration is only for the operator and not for each drone. Also, drones that weigh less than 250g and have no cameras or other sensors able to detect personal data, or that do feature a camera or other sensors but are considered toys through official documentation, do not need registration.

For more information about the new regulations, visit EASA’s website, or get in touch with your drone’s manufacturer.