Drone industry ready to take off thanks to new EU Regulation

On 11 September the new Basic Regulation on aviation safety rules came into force including for the first time a new section for drones (Unmanned aircraft or UAS). Until recently all UAS weighing less than 150 kg were regulated at national level, creating disparate rules throughout the EU member states. Now competence for all drones, including small drones (less than 150 kg) has been transferred to the EU. The European Commission is now preparing implementing and delegated regulations. It is foreseen that those will enter into force early 2019 with a two years transition regime Read more here.

Why need for EU drone Regulations

Drones are a rapidly-developing sector. It is expected that within 20 years the European drone sector will directly employ more than 100,000 people and have an economic impact exceeding €10 billion per year, mainly in services.

Drones can by definition cross the borders and without common rules with respect to product standards and the operations, cross border operations of drones are a real challenge.

The strategy of the EU is the safe and secure integration of drones into the European aviation system from 2019 onwards through the development of:

a)    A common safety regulatory frame work, proportionate to risks for drones of all classes. This is to enable the creation of a single European market for civil drones applications;

b)    The necessary enabling technologies

c)    Measures to ensure the protection of citizens; and

d)    Measures to support market development and European industries

The EU has been working on this since 2014. On 12 June the EU Parliament approved the new Basic Regulation on aviation and safety rules and on 26 June this is approved by the EU Council and came into force on 11 September 2018. It sets out basic rules that both drones as a product and their operations must meet and it extends the EU competence on drones regardless of their weight.

Two further Regulations are planned: the delegated regulation regarding the technical requirements on consumer drones and an implementing regulation setting out the requirements concerning all drones and drone operations that are risk-based and proportionate and taking into account the principles of proportionality as well as measures to mitigate the risks of drones operations in open and specific categories.

Changes to Basic Regulation

The basic regulation confers powers on the Commission to adopt implementing regulations and delegated regulations (Chapter III, Section VII). In its annex IX the Basic regulation contains essential requirements for drones – the starting point for design, production, maintenance and operation, generic requirements for all drones and more detailed requirements for classes subject to certification or declaration.

Draft Drone Regulations

The two draft regulations are still subject to formal consultation.

The implementing regulation creates three categories: open, specific and certified. The Implementing regulation only relates at present to the open and specific categories.

The open categories are in principle low risk drones. They do not require prior authorization by the competent authorities; nor a declaration by the drone operator before the operation takes place. But if the weight more than 250 grams, they will need to be registered.

The requirements refer to line of sight operations, maximum platform weight of 25 kg, maximum altitude 120 m a.g.l. (except where flying over a fixed obstacle over 70 m), limited flight over uninvolved people and meet criteria of classes C0-C4. Remote pilot must have the ability to take control. So autonomous operations are excluded.

The specific category  means a category of drone operations that considering the risk involved require an authorization by the competent authority before the operation takes place, except for standard scenarios for which a declaration by the drone operator is sufficient or when the operator holds a light drone operator certificate with privileges.

A certified category means a category of drone operation which requires the certification of the drone and its operator as well as licensing of the flight crew.

De delegated regulation sets out the product requirements for the open category drones. It divides them into 5 classes: classes C0-C4 and provides an electronic identification system.


All operators must register the drones weighing more than 250 grams. At present only drones weighing more than 1 kg must be registered in Belgium. Registration marks must be displayed. The registration must occur by reference to the class of the drones. This applies to both open and the specific operations.


Entry into force estimated early 2019 for the delegated and implementing regulations. The implementing regulation annex is expected three months thereafter. There will be a two year transition regime, extending validity of existing authorizations and member states’ option to suspend certain open category requirements.


Member states remain competent to create no/restricted drone zones.

There will be a high volume of drones which will need to be registered. Many of the small drones are now not registered.

The main challenge is still the U-space and the unmanned traffic management systems.

Other regulatory authorities will need to work together on safety issues.