Article 9 of the implementing Regulation sets minimum age requirements for the unsupervised operation of unmanned aircraft in the open category (16 years, which a Member State can decide to lower to 12 years).
Article 9(5) of the implementing Regulation states that “Member States may define a different minimum age for remote pilots operating in the framework of model aircraft clubs or associations in the authorisation issued in accordance with Article 16”.
Note that Article 9(5) uses the wording “different minimum age”. This is different from Article 9(3) and (4) which say “lower the minimum age”. Our interpretation is that the term “different minimum age” applies to the entire concept of minimum age, covering all paragraphs of Article 9, including the exemptions under 9(2), not just the number of years. This means that Article 9(5) allows a Member State to define every element of the minimum age requirements (including related to the age of any supervisor) in the authorisation under Article 16, not just “lower” it as under (3) and (4). In combination with the requirement to ensure a “seamless transition” in recital 27 of the implementing Regulation that means that the minimum age for unsupervised flying can be set much lower. The minimum age can also be set in a qualitative rather than in a quantitative manner. For instance, instead of defining a number of years, the authorisation can require that “the person needs to be sufficiently mature to safely operate a model aircraft without supervision”. A Member State may also decide not to set minimum age criteria at all.