Guide to EU UAS Regulations and CAP1789

CAP1789 Guide to EU Drone Regulations

On 21 June, the CAA released CAP1789 to provide an outline of the newly published EU unmanned aircraft regulations. Due to be implemented by July 2020, the ‘EU UAS Regulation Package’ aims to provide harmonisation across Europe, simplifying the overall process for UAS operations and removing the need to refer to separate regulations within each State/country. Therefore, it’s crucial that every drone operator in the UK, both commercial and recreational, has a good understanding of the new regulations coming into force from July 2019 onwards.

It’s also important to mention that the CAA are taking the viewpoint that theses regulations will come into force in the UK in some form.

In this article, we’ll look at the key sections of the new regulations outlined in CAP1789, and what they could mean for the European and UK drone industry.

EASA Regulations

On 11 June 2019 a package of regulations relating to the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) within Europe was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. This ‘EU UAS Regulation Package’ consists of two separate, but interlinked regulations as follows:

  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 on the procedures and rules for the operation of unmanned aircraft.
  • Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 on unmanned aircraft and on third country operators of unmanned aircraft systems.

Although the regulations have now been published, it is important to note that they will not become applicable until a later date. The Delegated Regulation will enter into force and become applicable on 1 July 2019. The Implementing Regulation will also enter into force on the same day, but it will not become applicable until one year later (1 July 2020).

There is no immediate effect on the way unmanned aircraft are operated within the United Kingdom, however, Uplift Drones will keep you up to date through the stages of implementation via our Blog and social media channels:

UAS Operating Categories

Based on three concepts – operation centric, risk based and performance based – the operations of unmanned aircraft will fall into one of three categories as follows:

  • Open Category: Operations that present a low (or no) risk to third parties. Operations are conducted in accordance with basic and pre-defined characteristics and are not subject to any further authorisation requirements.
  • Specific Category: Operations that present a greater risk than that of the Open category, or where one or more elements of the operation fall outside the boundaries of the Open category. Operations will require an operational authorisation from the CAA, based on a safety risk assessment.
  • Certified Category: Operations that present an equivalent risk to that of manned aviation and so will be subjected to the same regulatory regime (i.e. certification of the aircraft, certification of the operator, licensing of the pilot).

Open Category

Of particular importance is the Open Category, as this will apply to the majority of drone operators due to its three binding factors:

  1. the maximum take-off mass of the unmanned aircraft must be less than 25kg
  2. the unmanned aircraft must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS)
  3. the unmanned aircraft must not be flown further than 120 metres (400 feet) from the closest point of the surface of the earth

All three of these factors must apply for an Open category operation. If not, then the operation must be conducted under the requirements of the Specific category instead.

The Open category is then further divided down into three operational ‘subcategories’, in order to allow different types of operation without the need for an authorisation, as follows:

A key element of the Open category is that any unmanned aircraft that are sold for use within this category will also be subject to a set of product standards, similar to the ‘CE’ marking scheme. In order to achieve this standardisation, unmanned aircraft that are intended to be sold within the ‘EU market’ have been further subdivided into 5 ‘classes’.

Note: A diagrammatic representation of how the subcategories and UAS classes are broken down is provided at the end of this section.

These classes provide a link to the operational subcategories as follows:

The full details of the product standards for each class are set out in the Annex to the Delegated Regulation and include a requirement to include an EASA published information leaflet in the packaging which simply describes the applicable limitations and obligations under EU law in the form of a ‘do’ and don’t’ list. Remember, these standards only apply to unmanned aircraft that are intended to be sold in the EU market, either fully assembled or in kit form.

Clearly, manufacturers will need time to create products that are compliant to the standards and it is most unlikely that it will be possible to purchase a compliant device immediately. Therefore, some transitional arrangements have been developed as follows:

  • Unmanned aircraft which do not comply with the requirements of classes C0 to C4 are able to continue to be operated indefinitely within subcategory A3 (far from people) and, if they are less than 250g, within subcategory A1 (over people)
  • From 1 July 2022 onwards, Open category unmanned aircraft that are placed on the EU market (i.e. new products introduced for sale in Europe) must comply with the product standards and be marked with the appropriate class Number (C0 to C4)
  • Until 1 July 2022, additional transitional provisions have been made to enable unmanned aircraft:
    • with a mass of less than 500g to be used in subcategory A1
    • with a mass of less than 2kg to be operated in subcategory A2 down to a horizontal distance of 50m from people subject to certain requirements regarding remote pilot competency.

Diagrammatic Portrayal of the Open Category and Subcategories:

Diagrammatic Portrayal of the Open Category and Subcategories

Specific Category

The simplest description of a Specific category operation is that it is a UAS operation that ‘cannot be done within the Open category, but is not complicated enough for the certified category’.

For UK UAS operators, the process should be very similar to the current permissions and exemptions process in that the UAS operator is required to tell the CAA:

  • what, where and how the unmanned aircraft will be operated;
  • demonstrate that the operation is ‘safe enough’ through the provision of a safety risk assessment/safety case.

The regulations also introduce a ‘standard scenario’ concept where, for some relatively simple types of operation, the burden on UAS operators is removed through the use of a number of ‘preassessed’ operating procedures and can simply ‘declare’ his/her intent to operate to the CAA. In these situations, the safety risk assessment has already been conducted by EASA or the CAA and so UAS operators simply have to follow a ‘recipe’ of fixed conditions and limitations that has been provided for them. The subsequent actions are then:

  • The UAS operator makes a declaration to the CAA that he/she will apply the scenarios listed mitigating measures when conducting this type of operation.
  • The operation may be commenced once the CAA has responded to the operator to verify that the declaration is complete.


The regulations introduce requirements for registration, which build on the requirements that were introduced in Annex IX of Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 (the ‘New Basic Regulation’)3, which states that:

  • Unmanned aircraft whose design is subject to certification must be registered
  • Operators4 of unmanned aircraft must be registered when operating;
    • an unmanned aircraft that could transfer more than 80 Joules kinetic energy to a human that it collides with
    • an unmanned aircraft where its operation presents risks to privacy, protection of personal data, security or the environment

These requirements therefore lead to the overall principles within the Implementing Regulation that:

  • Certified category – the unmanned aircraft must be registered (in the same way that a manned aircraft is registered)
  • Open and Specific categories – the UAS operator must be registered.

The UAS operator registration principles are generally the same as those being introduced in the UK from 30 November 2019 under articles 94C and 94D of Air Navigation Order 2016 with the following notable exception:

  • Operators are required to register when they operate an unmanned aircraft that is less than 250g in mass if it:
    • is equipped with a sensor that can capture personal data (i.e. a camera or ‘listening device’), unless it is classed as a toy, or:
    • is able to transfer a kinetic energy of more than 80 Joules to a human in the event of a collision (i.e. it may be small and light, but it can be flown at high speed)

UK Implementation of the Regulations

The current intent is that these regulations will apply to the operation of unmanned aircraft in the UK from 1 July 2020. Clearly, this date is subject to any subsequent effects that may be imposed by the manner of the UK’s departure from the EU (Brexit).

At Uplift we expect these regulations will be followed by the UK, but why do we think that? Well, they are largely an improvement on the existing regulations and the CAA has had a large input into theses EU regulations.  Secondly, the industry desperately needs this new framework that can unlock more of the capabilities of drones via the specific category.

Work is now underway within the CAA to implement these regulations. Further details will be provided when available and when details are confirmed. However, the intent of the project is to meet the following timelines:

November 2019• Revised requirements for National Qualified Entities (NQEs) published in a new document (CAP 722B). NQEs will be renamed to reflect the changed requirements and will have until 1 July 2020 to complete the transition.
April 2020• Revised CAA Scheme of Charges issued which will reflect the scope of the new regulations.
By June 2020• CAP 722 revision published to reflect new policy/guidance.
• Risk assessment requirements published in a separate document (CAP 722A).
• UAS webpages within CAA website updated.
• UK UAS registration and remote pilot competency schemes revised to reflect changes imposed by these regulations.
By 01 July 2020• All UK issued permissions and exemption documents issued to UAS operators will be in the new format required by the new regulations. Revised documents will be issued from July 2019 at the point of renewal.

The Air Navigation Order will also require amendment in order to reflect the new regulations.

Looking Ahead

It’s no secret that these new regulations loosen the reigns for UK drone pilots, particularly in regard to reduced safety distances and refined training solutions for commercial operators through the Open Category. All aircraft below 4kg that meet the C2 UAS product requirements will be able to fly 5m horizontally from uninvolved persons in “low speed mode”. Contending aircraft include the popular DJI Mavic Series and DJI Phantom Series drones, go-to aircraft for professionals conducting structural, asset and roofing inspections. The Open Category will ‘open the door’ (no pun intended) for many SMEs and larger organisations to adopt drone technology into their everyday operations, with the ability to more easily create in-house solutions.

But is this good news for current PfCO holders? Well, many organisations will require qualified and experienced professional drone pilots to consult during the development of their in-house teams. Not only will drone operators have more operational flexibility, but with uniform qualifications and harmonised regulations across Europe, they will also have geographic flexibility to provide services across borders. Existing operators with established drone businesses are, therefore, likely to see an increase in service demand.

Whether you’re an individual or organisation, the bottom line is that the new EU regulations are designed to trigger growth throughout the UK and larger European commercial drone market.

You can view the full CAP1789 document here.

Stay up to date through the next stages of implementation via our Blog and social media channels:

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