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Drones in the skies

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has presented its New Regulatory Approach for RPAS for safely operating Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). This new approach, called “Concept of Operations”.

In Europe, the commercial use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) will be divided into three categories; “open”, “specific” and “certified”, with levels of requirements rising to match the risks and the type of operation for each category.

EASA’s release followed the high-level conference held in Riga, Latvia, on March 5 - 6 2015 that produced consensus among EU Member States on five principles for introducing RPAS into European airspace at the beginning of 2016.

According to EASA, small drones in the “open” category would be restricted to flying within the operator’s visual line of sight (VLOS), to no higher than 150 meters (492 feet) above ground or water, and outside reserved areas, such as airports.

For the “specific” category, the operator is required to perform a safety risk assessment of the planned mission, identifying mitigation measures that a national aviation authority would review and approve through an operations authorisation (OA).

The “certified” category envisions drones that would fly with manned aircraft in unrestricted airspace. Pilots engaged in this category would require licenses. The airworthiness certificate may or may not also cover the aircraft’s ground control station.

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