The European Union (EU) has published new drone rules and registration requirements (EU Regulation 2019/045 and Commission Implementing Regulation 2019/947). This step has been highly anticipated among drone enthusiasts and will bring a much-needed harmonization among the different drone laws of EU countries. These existing drone rules have been implemented on a per-country basis, leading to a multitude of rules and administrative burdens for drone pilots, and are absolutely not encouraging drone usage across EU borders within a common space.
The new EU Drone rules at a glance
The new regulations for Drones in the EU have a common theme that has been called for repeatedly by the drone pilot community: Simplicity and common sense.
It all starts with a simple yet general registration requirement. The fee for registering a drone is 25 Euros, making it very affordable compared to some existing countries (like Austria that charges several hundred Euros for drone registrations).
There will be three categories of drone registrations:
- The “open” category will be the most common category for hobby drone users, which includes all drones over 250 grams as well as also drones under 250 grams if they are equipped with a camera.
- The “specific” category applies to heavier and partly automated drones (such as package delivery)
- The “certified” category is applying to aircraft with higher risk that are comparable to other manned aircraft (such as surveillance drones).
In the “Open” category, drone pilots can expect the following common-sense rules to apply:
- Drones with a weight less than 500g may be operated in an area where reasonably it is expected that no uninvolved person is overflown
- Drones with weight up to 2 kg may be operated up to 50 m horizontal distance from people
- Drones with weight up to 25 kg may be operated at 150 m horizontal distance of residential, recreational and industrial areas, in a range where reasonably it is expected that no uninvolved person is overflown during the entire time of the operation
Drones in the “open” category are allowed to be flown to a maximum of 120 meters altitude within VLOS (Visual Line of Sight).
New EU Drone Rules in force from June 2020
The new Drone Rules in the EU will be in force starting in June 2020. Until that date, national regulators will have to embed these regulations into national law and set up registration procedures, which will be mostly an easy-to-use online process.
Patrick Ky, Director of the Aviation regulatory body EASA, says: “Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring safe, secure and sustainable operations of drones both, for commercial and leisure activities. Common rules will help foster investment, innovation, and growth in this promising sector.”