Drone Regulations Guide | COPTRZ | Full guide to new UK drone laws

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FREE DRONE REGULATIONS GUIDE

Your comprehensive guide to the UK drone regulation changes.

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The UK’s drone regulations changed on the 31st of December 2020. On this page, you’ll find everything you need to know about the UK’s drone laws and what they mean for you, including:
  • Why have the UK’s drone regulations changed?
  • The new classification system that came into effect with the new drone laws
  • Flight risk assessments changes
  • What the new drone registration process looks like and what you need to do to comply
  • What the new drone laws mean for you if you’re already a commercial pilot
  • How Coptrz can support you through the new drone regulation changes
  • The new courses Coptrz are providing to ensure that you are fully compliant with the drone regulation changes

In short, there are four big changes which should make it easier to fly your drone as a Commercial or Non-Commercial Pilot:

1) Classification System

The new system which was launched on 31st December 2020 means the drones themselves will be classified from C0 up to C4 dependent on requirements such as weight and capabilities of the drone.

2) Flight Risk Assessments

Secondly, the Flight Risk Assessments have changed and are now classified as Open, Specific or Certified based on the proximity of flying to people and the level of risk involved.

3) Registration

Registration came into play on 1st October 2019, a fairly minor change with pilots needing to register their drone, display the number and pay a small annual admin fee. Registration only takes 20-30 minutes and you only have to register once as a pilot, not for every drone you own.

4) NQE becomes RAE

Finally approved Drone Training providers like COPTRZ will become a RAE (Recognised Assessment Entity) as opposed to NQE’s and provide two main qualifications. A one-day CofC (Certificate of Competency) for operations within the OPEN category. Or a GVC (General VLOS Certificate) which is used to apply for an Operational Authorisation (Similar to a PfCO) for operations within the SPECIFIC category.

Drones Regs: Explained, Episode 1. Find out everything you need to know about the new UK drone regulations for 2021. In this 1 hour video, we cover the new drone regulation changes, new training courses from the A2 CofC to the GVC, the classification changes, and what these changes mean for you. Find out everything you need to know to start your flying in 2021.

Drone Regs: Explained, Episode 2. We are back with the next instalment in our Drone Regs: Explained series. In this video, our UAV experts Jamie and Duncan talk you through everything you need to know about the new drone law changes. Including new courses, from the A2 CofC, GCV and classification changes, and what they mean for you.

WHY HAVE THE UK DRONE LAWS CHANGED?

The new drone regulations are designed to align with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and build on the new Drone and Model Aircraft Registration Scheme in the UK. The main reason to do this is so that Europe as a whole are operating under the same standard rather than having different regulations in each country.

The new regulations and classification puts the pressure back onto the manufacturer and will be based around three basic concepts; Type of operation being conducted; Level of risk involved and the Level of performance/capabilities required.

Now that the new drone regulations have come into effect, operations will fall into one of three categories:

Open Category

Open category operations 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.

Specific Category

Specific category operations present a greater risk with one or more elements of the operation falling outside the boundaries of the Open category. They will require Operational Authorisation from the CAA based on a risk assessment.

Certified Category

Certified category operations present the same level of risk to manned aviation and will be subjected to the same regulatory regime (i.e. certification of the aircraft, certification of the operator, licensing of the pilot).

Pilots who fly in the Open category will be controlled by three main factors. These are:

  • The maximum take-off mass of the unmanned aircraft must be less than 25kg;
  • The unmanned aircraft must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS);
  • The unmanned aircraft must not be flown higher than 120 metres (400 feet);

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.

However, the 400ft height limit can be exceeded when overflying a fixed obstacle, provided that:

  • The person in charge of the ‘obstacle’ has granted permission (i.e. the reason for the flight is related to that obstacle);
  • The unmanned aircraft is not flown more than 15m above the top of the obstacle and must be kept within 50m horizontally of it.

A1 - Fly 'over' people

Drones in this category pose a very low risk of harm or injury to people due to their low weight (drone weighs less than 250g), their type of construction, or because they are a toy (‘inherently harmless’); Flights over open-air groups of people are not permitted.

A2 - Fly 'close to' people

Drones must be no heavier than 4kg; You can fly to 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; The operator must have completed the A2 CofC.

A3 - Fly 'far from' people

This category covers the more general types of operations; The drone will only be flown in areas that are clear of uninvolved persons; Will not be flown in areas that are used for residential, commercial, industrial or recreational purposes (equivalent to ‘congested areas’).

Flying Class C0 Drones in A1 Subcategory (Under 250g)

C0 drones are small and include toy drones;

  • Under 250g maximum take-off mass;
  • Maximum speed of 19m/s (approx. 42.5mph);
  • Cannot be flown more than 120m (400ft) from the pilot

What training and certification do I need to fly a C0 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required if camera equipped
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training for Commercial operators
  • Online foundation test for Commercial operators

Flying Class C1 Drones in the A1 Subcategory (Under 900g)

C1 drones are heavier than C0 drones and cover more commercial UAV’s;

– Under 900g in maximum take-off mass, or are made and perform in a way that if they collide with a person, the energy transmitted will be less than 80 Joules;
– They have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx. 42.5 mph);
– They are designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people;
– The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits, height limits and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems.

What training and certification do I need to fly a C1 Drone?
UK Drone Registration required
Read manufacturer user manual
Online training
Online foundation test

Flying Class C2 drones in the A2 subcategory ‘close to’ (Under 4kg)

C2 class drones:

  • Are less than 4kg in weight;
  • They are designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people;
  • They are equipped with a low-speed mode which limits the maximum speed to 3m/s (approx. 6.7 mph) when selected by the remote pilot;
  • The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits (but different from Class C1), height limits and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems, plus additional requirements if it is to be used during tethered flight.

What training and certification do I need to fly a C2 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test
  • Self-practical training
  • Certificate of Competence theoretical test (CofC Test)

Flying Class C3 drones in the A3 subcategory far from people (Under 25kg)

Drones that have automatic control modes (such as found in typical multi-rotar drones) which:

  • -Weigh less than 25kg in take-off mass;
  • The standards also cover other aspects covering height limits and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems;
  • There are also additional requirements if it is to be used during tethered flight, but there is no specified noise limit;

What training and certification do I need to fly a C3 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test

Flying class C4 drones in the A3 subcategory far from people (Under 25kg):

  • C4 class drones don’t possess any automation, other than for basic flight stabilisation (and so are more representative of a ‘traditional’ model aircraft);
  • C4 drones are less than 25kg maximum take-off mass.

What training and certification do I need to fly a C4 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test

WHAT CLASS IS MY DRONE?

The new legislation for flight categories and classes began on 31st December 2020, but it has been recognised that manufacturers will need time to create products that are compliant with the new standards set out in each of the classes.

During the transitional period, 2022 drone products that are compliant with the Class C0 to C4 standards can be introduced for sale/used in the Open category. These will be known as ‘legacy’ aircraft.

Day PfCO Permission for Commercial Operations

The previous CAA requirement for commercial drone operations before 31st December 2020.

The PfCO was the previous CAA certification needed to fly commercially in the UK before December 31st 2020.

Anyone with a valid PfCO will still be able to operate under its limitations and conditions until its expiry date, and will be able to renew their permission as an Operational Authorisation after December 31st 2020 if renewed before its expiry.

Anyone that has trained with COPTRZ in 2019 that did not complete their PfCO course will be able to transfer onto a GVC course to complete the required GVC assessments free of charge, once the GVC course and assessments are complete you will be able to apply to the CAA for an Operational Authorisation.

Anyone enrolling on a PfCO with COPTRZ between 1st September 2019 and December 2020 will be offered the 1-day A2 CofC training course free of charge.

What should I do with my PfCO once it expires?

If you let your PfCO expire after December 2020 you will not be able to renew it as an Operational Authorisation with your NQE certificates and will have to complete a GVC course with an RAE to get the required GVC certificates to apply for an Operational Authorisation.

This means if you want to continue to operate drones within the specific category without having to retrain and resit competency assessments in the short term, you must ensure you Operations manual is updated to reflect the changes and submitted to the CAA for renewal in plenty of time.

Day A2 CofC Certificate of Competency Drone Training

The A2 CofC is a new Certificate of Competency under the new EU UAS Regulations and may be required to fly under certain conditions within the Open Category.

Depending on what equipment you have and how you plan to use it you may need an A2 CofC. If you hold an A2 CofC you will be able to fly in the A2 or A1 subcategory if your aircraft meets the specification requirements. The A2 subcategory allows you to fly a C2 aircraft down to a distance of 30m horizontally from uninvolved people or up to 5m in ‘low-speed mode’. 0r 50m horizontally from uninvolved people for A2 Transitional Aircraft

At COPTRZ, we have now transitioned to be an RAE provider (Recognised Assessment Entity). This means we can train pilots wanting to access the A2 CofC qualification on a one-day course at one of our many training locations around the UK or online through Coptrz Academy.

The A2 CofC course will cover theory such as the basic principles of flight, operating in congested areas, how to avoid collision, battery safety, and environmental factors.

After your A2 CofC Training course, you will have to complete some practical flight training (either with an RAE such as COPTRZ or under self-monitored circumstances).

Once you have completed the practical flight training you will complete a short multiple-choice test with 30 questions.

The main difference between the PfCO/Operational Authorisation and the new CofC is there is no flight assessment and no need to write an Operations Manual, however, the limitations that you will be able to fly under will be dependant of the Class (or Mass if a transitional aircraft)

The CofC qualification lasts for five years before you need to renew it.

 

What can I fly in A2 Subcategory?

You can fly C2 drones in the A2 subcategory as well as transitional Aircraft under 2kg such as the DJI Mavic or Phantom series for example. C2 aircraft have a maximum take-off mass less than 4kg and a low-speed mode or no more than 2m/s or 6.7mph. The other stipulation for the C2 class of aircraft is to minimise injury, have geo-awareness system and operate quietly with low noise levels.

However, as these C2 drones have yet to be developed by manufactures there will be a transitional period until December 31st 2022 where pilots who fly a non CE marked drone will be able to operate in the A2 subcategory under the transitional provisions.

After the transitional period if you are still operating these ‘legacy’ aircraft then you will be able to fly in the A3 subcategory (fly far from people). which means no uninvolved people can be present and you cannot fly within 150m horizontally of residential, commercial, industrial, or recreational areas.

 

What to do if I haven’t got an A2 CofC?

PfCO holders beyond December 2020 can operate as normal under the terms of the permission, until their 12 month renewal date. This means ‘legacy’ aircraft, such as the DJI Mavic 2 or Inspire 2, can be operated under your standard permissions.

Day GVC General Visual Line of Sight Certificate

The GVC is the general VLOS (Visual Line of Sight) Certificate and covers the competency requirements to be able to apply for an Operational Authorisation from the CAA and includes drone operations in the middle tier ‘specific’ category. The GVC will comprise of similar elements as the course to obtain a PfCO including Ground School Theory and assessment, a practical flight test and an Operations Manual which includes the applicable pre-defined risk assessments. Following successful completion of the course candidates will receive their GVC certificates and a recommendation which are valid for 5 years from issue.

These Certificates can be used to apply to the CAA for an Operational Authorisation that that is valid for a year from issue.

 

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