Search
  • gorilla drones

So what is this thing called 'Open Category' and who's EASA then?

Updated: Jan 14

You may be aware (hopefully if you've been flying a drone recently!) that the regulations within the UK surrounding the use of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) have changed -- from the 31st December 2020 to be exact -- and, to be honest there's much confusion around the whole drone community right now about "how it affects me?" as, to be blunt about it, although the CAA have had a fantastic stab at explaining this detail, it's still not exactly easy for a fair few to get their heads around.


Best grab a coffee by the way before proceeding!


Firstly, who's this EASA then? Well they're the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, who are the people responsible for all Civil Aviation safety matters within the EU. "Hang on!" I hear you say, "we're not part of the EU anymore!" Well yes, however the UK Civil Aviation Authority had quite a large part in forming many of the new regulations that have now come into force as far as we understand, and so decided to adopt (mirror) them for standardisation across Europe reasons, although we're out of the EU now due to the B-word. The CAA, who are our National Aviation Authority (NAA) I'm sure will try keep in line with most EASA regulations as we move forwards, so we stay in step with them as much as it is possible to do so from a safety standpoint, however they are our NAA and so can regulate our airspace as they deem appropriate outside of the EASA regulatory 'framework'.


What information has been provided to the drone community? ... well, an astonishingly large amount of documentation has been churned out to us drone flyers, which we know made most of the more seasoned operators out there going 'smh' and thinking 'omg' at it all! ... We'll just leave this link here so you can see what we mean;


http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/modalapplication.aspx?catid=1&pagetype=65&appid=11&mode=list&type=sercat&id=85&filter=2&reorder=dateOrder


It's thought that most of the confusion is set around the different classes of drones that can operate within the certain areas of airspace, as we all move away from a Commercial versus Hobby centric set of regulations, to a risk & operation centric set of regulations, which is all based on the unmanned aircraft itself, where the flight takes place and what remote pilot competency or CAA operational authorisation you may have gained.


The new regulations are broken into three distinct categories of operation, based on the risk of the operation -- Open, Specific (Operational Authorisation) and Certified (details to be confirmed but this is for heavy specialist aircraft; think deliveries and future complex flights etc.) -- so, here we are only talking about the Open Category, which most will fall into. Additionally to this, there are also subcategories to the Open category, namely A1, A2 & A3 and they specify how close to uninvolved people (people not part of the reason for the flight) that you can fly;

  • A1 -- Fly 'over' uninvolved people

  • A2 -- Fly 'close' to uninvolved people

  • A3 - Fly 'far away' from uninvolved people

  • Note in any of the above subcategories, whilst vehicles, vessels, and structures aren't explicitly mentioned, people may be within said cars/buildings/etc, to which the flight should take account of (i.e if an uninvolved person is sitting in a car 10 metres away, they need to be consulted.)

The CAA documentation reference aircraft that are not currently available on the market, namely C0, C1, C2, etc., as well as the current drones we all have and are available to purchase today, which are classed as 'legacy'.


Have a headache yet? well, we're a #UAS #Drone #Services provider and do not currently offer training per-se; there are plenty of other blogs out there containing information around this, however we've put together the below information to help our followers determine what all this actually means *now* for some of the most common UASs (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) that most have ownership of.


UAS/drones currently available to purchase or in your possession are now classed as 'legacy' drones and are based on their 'Flying Weight' rather than their 'Maximum Take Off Mass' (MTOM), to which the 'new' C# classification drones will use when they start to appear on the market. Note, we may well have our own 'UK' marking as well as 'CE' markings when they appear too.


Basics are that the person (min 18 years old) or business entity who is the legal 'owner' of the drone must register themselves with the CAA if they are to fly a drone that has a camera and is not 'a Toy***', regardless of weight here : https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/. Once registered and fee paid (currently £9/year) then an operator ID will be issued, which needs to be attached to all drone(s). Additionally to the operator ID, if the drone is heavier than 250 grams, the flyer/remote pilot must take a basic competency test and gain their flyer ID -- more details can be found on the registration website around this. Note though that we would highly recommend *anybody* flying *any* drone, whether you intend to fly or own/manage them, take the flyer ID test, as this gives them a very basic understanding of the rules and 'Drone Code'.


All legacy drones that are 250 grams 'Flying Weight' or greater have defaulted to the 'A3' Open subcategory, so without any additional 'training' that gaining the Flyer ID provides, you will need to be far away from uninvolved people and potentially vehicles, vessels and structures So how can you get closer? ... the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2CofC)!

The A2CofC is essentially a next level up of remote pilot competency training that will allow you to fly legacy drones (<250g) in additional places; there are many training providers that you can enroll with to gain this, just google A2CofC and I'm sure you will find plenty of choice. Note here that with the A2CofC, whilst legacy unmanned aircraft can fly within the transitional subcategories until the certified 'CE' or 'UK (or both?) appear on the market, these transitional category exemptions will end on 31st December 2022, and all legacy unmanned aircraft will be moved to the A3 subcategory, regardless of if you have been awarded an A2CofC.


So, all that said, here we go then, breaking down CAP722 & CAP2012 with some examples of the most used current legacy UAS/drones that are out there;


ALL UAS

  • No flights in any Restricted, danger or Flight Restricted Zones of aerodromes/airports without relevant permission. We recommend Altitude Angel's Guardian mobile device app and their safety map (https://www.dronesafetymap.com/) as an absolute minimum to keep your flights safe with respect to airspace; also see CAA's Drone Code for further details (https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/drone-code) on FRZs/RPZs etc.

  • UAS to be kept in visual line of sight at all times (VLOS)

  • Fly no higher than 120m (~400ft) from closest point of surface of earth

  • Not exceeding 25 Kg 'Flying Weight'

  • No Dropping of articles

  • No carriage of dangerous goods


Less than 250 grams, e.g;

DJI Mavic Mini, Mini2, Tello

Parrot Mambo

UAS Privately built (and when not exceeding 19m/s)

  • Register as a drone operator if the drone has a camera and is not a 'Toy***'

  • No overflights of an assembly of people*

  • Can fly within 'congested area**'


250 grams - 25 Kg, e.g;

UAS Privately built (Usually FPV aircraft) which fall outside 19m/s

  • Dedicated competent observer/spotter is required if wearing FPV goggles at all times

  • 50 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from uninvolved people

  • 150 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from 'congested area**'

  • Must adopt 1:1 (one-to-one) rule for separation whereby the separation to uninvolved persons from a height and distance must be maintained, but not reduced below 50 metres horizontal/cylinder at any time

  • Unable to be used under A2CofC / transitional categories, however ...

  • Article 16 can be used for members of FPVUK (and other flying clubs we believe) for recreational only (non commercial) flights -- see details at fpvuk.org for more details


250 grams - 500 grams, e.g;

Aircraft that are within this include;

DJI Mavic Air 1, Spark

Parrot Anafi

  • 50 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from uninvolved people

  • 150 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from 'congested area'

  • A2 Certificate of Competency (A2CofC) elevates the UAS into A1 transitional, so you can then fly ...

  • No minimum separation distance to uninvolved people

  • No intentional overflight of uninvolved people


500 - 2 Kg, e.g;

Aircraft that are within this include;

DJI Mavic Mavic Pro, Mavic Pro2 & Zoom, Mavic Air2, Phantom

Yuneec Typhoon

Auto Evo

  • 50 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from uninvolved people

  • 150 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from 'congested area'

  • A2 Certificate of Competency (A2CofC) elevates the UAS into A2 transitional, so you can then fly ...

  • 50 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from uninvolved people

  • Can fly within 'congested area'


2 Kg - 25 Kg, e.g;

Aircraft that are within this include;

DJI Inspire

  • 50 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from uninvolved people

  • 150 metre 'horizontal/cylinder' separation from 'congested area'

  • Unable to be used under A2CofC / transitional categories


Note that article 241 of the Air Navigation order (Endangering Safety of any person or property) underpins all flights, irrespective of weight, category, certification or operational authorisation -- "A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property" -- which essentially means any flight must be conducted in a way that is it safe to do so.


* An assembly of people is defined by the CAA as a number of people within a confined enough space to which they could not have reasonable enough chance to escape from an 'out of control' UAS, such as sporting event, beaches or parks on a sunny day, commercial streets during busy periods, music festivals etc. (see CAP722 for additional examples of criteria.)


** A 'congested area' is defined by the CAA as a flight within a residential, commercial, industrial or recreational area.


*** A 'Toy' is classified as such under the 'Toys (Safety) regulations 2011, which states "Essentially a 'toy' is a product that is considered to be suitable for use by a person who is under the age of 14. Therefore, if the product is not marked as such within its packaging, then it cannot be considered to be a toy."


In any account, these above rules are specifically regarding airspace and any ground based permissions still need to be gained; trespass laws, bylaws and private land are still additional items to which you will need to gain permission for prior to taking off.


Insurance wise - it is highly recommended (and we think should be mandated by law) that public liability insurance be purchased for all recreational flights and ALL commercial activities still require regulatory EC 785/2004 cover.


Please do feel free to drop us an email : airdesk@gorilladrones.co.uk with any feedback regarding this blog entry, and if your particular drone is not mentioned, email us too so we can add it to the list for others.


Fly safe!

Team GD

All Imagery COPYRIGHT © Gorilla Drones Ltd 2018 - 2020

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED