On the 1st January 2021 the laws regarding the operation of Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is changing in line with EASA regulations.
The new laws restrict what untrained and unlicensed operators can do and also remove the Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) open up the commercial market to many more people.
The new laws reflect the changes in how drones are being used, particularly around construction surveying and agriculature.
Under the previous regulations all users of drones weighing more than 250g needed to register and pass a basic exam with the Civil Aviation Authority in order to gain their Flyer ID.
This allows them to fly as a hobby pilot.
In order to do any form of commercial work you had to obtain a PfCo, a lengthy and expensive process.
The new regulations no longer specify commercial work as a category meaning that anyone can effectively do it but what it does do is put drones into tree specific categories.
Our primary concern here is the OPEN CATEGORY which includes operations that present no risk or low risk to third parties. These operations are conducted in accordance with basic and pre-defined characteristics and are not subject to any further authorisation. This rules out things such as overflying uninvolved people.
Pilots wanting to do commercial work in this category or operate to the full extent of this category should take an A2 Certificate of Competence or a General Visual Certificate (GVC).
Within the Open Category there are three sub-catgeories.
A1 – Able to Fly Over People
At a maximum weight of 250g drones in this category pose very little risk of harm or injury, these are generally toys or very small drones such as the Mavic Mini. Flights over open-air groups of people are still not permitted though.
A2 – Fly close to people
The A2 category is where the majority of Drones will operate and can include aircraft up to 4kg. Drones in this category can be flown a minimum safe horizontal distance of 30m from uninvolved people; You can fly down to 5m horizontally of uninvolved people when the drones ‘ low-speed mode’ is selected and the operator has completed the A2 CofC.
A3 – Fly far from people
A3 is for drones that will only be flown in areas that are clear of uninvolved persons such as large open spaces in the countryside.