Overview of the new EU Rules

Until 2019 all activities with aircraft lighter than 150kg were under the regulatory competence of the EU Member States. This changed with the adoption of the new Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of 4 July 2018 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Union Aviation Safety Agency (commonly referred to as the “Basic Regulation”), which brought all aircraft, regardless of weight, into EU competence.

The Basic Regulation provides a mandate to the European Commission to adopt legislation in relation to the operation of unmanned aircraft, as well as requirements for their production and certification. These rules were published on 11 June 2019, in the form of two Regulations from the European Commission:

The timetable for the application and entry into force of these new rules is as follows:

  • Entry into force (relevant for the duty of Member States to start implementation) was on 1 July 2019;
  • Application will be from 1 January 2021 (relevant for the restrictions of the “open category” as well as the duty to register)*;
  • The exemption for activities in the framework of clubs and associations will end on 1 January 2023*.

*Note that this is the updated timetable for the application of the legislation, following the entry into force of the Amendment to the implementing Regulation on 6 June 2020, postponing dates of application of certain measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A more detailed summary of the various rules and their implications can be found here.

On 10 October 2019  The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) finally also published its Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance materials (GM) for the Regulation on UAS operations in the open and specific category. These provide a series of tools to assist national authorities with the implementation of the new legislation.

On 25 September 2019 EASA published its “Opinion on Standard scenarios for UAS operations in the ‘specific’ category“. This Opinion proposes two “standard scenarios”, for the operation of unmanned aircraft, as well proposals for related amendments to EU legislation:

  1. STS-01: visual line of sight (VLOS) operations at a maximum height of 120m, at a ground speed of less than 5 m/s in the case of untethered UA, over controlled ground areas that can be in populated (e.g. urban) environments, using UAS with maximum take-off masses (MTOMs) of up to 25 kg; and
  2. STS-02: beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations with the UA at not more than 2km from the remote pilot, if visual observers (VOs) are used, at a maximum height of 120m, over controlled ground areas in sparsely populated environments, using UA with MTOMs of up to 25 kg.

It also includes a number of editing and technical improvements to the implementing Regulation, the most important one of which is that EASA proposes that pilot certification can be obtained in any EU Member State, no longer just in the Member State where the pilot is resident.

The amendments proposed by EASA were formally adopted by the European Commission on 12 May 2020: Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/639 of 12 May 2020 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as regards standard scenarios for operations executed in or beyond the visual line of sight

On 4 June 2020 the European Commission adopted a further amendment to the Implementing Regulation, postponing the implementation timetable: Commission Regulation (EU) 2020/746 of 4 June 2020 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as regards postponing dates of application of certain measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Full text of the new rules