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EASA publishes the first Opinion on safe drone operations in Europe
23 February 2018

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) reported that it published the first formal Opinion on safe operations for small drones in Europe. The Opinion will serve as a basis for the European Commission to adopt concrete regulatory proposals later in the year.

The requirements for safe drone operations do not focus on the drone itself, but consider a range of elements such as where the drone is flown (over the sea or over a city centre), who is flying the drone (a child or a professional pilot) or what drone is actually being used (how heavy is the drone or what safety features it does have).

The ‘open’ category of operations’ does not require a prior authorisation by the competent authority, nor a declaration by the operator, before the operation takes place. Safety is ensured through a combination of operational limitations, technical requirements for the machine and the competency of the remote pilot. Examples of operations that fall into this category are filming and taking photographs, infrastructure inspections, and leisure activities in which the remote pilot keeps the unmanned aircraft in sight at all times.
The ‘specific’ category of operations requires an authorisation by the competent authority before the operation takes place. Here, safe operations are guaranteed through a system in which the drone operator is required to carry out an operational risk assessment and put in place the resulting mitigation measures to obtain an authorisation to fly the drone. Examples of this category are flights where the operator can no longer see the drone (so-called beyond visual line of sight or BVLOS), flying over populated areas and operations with heavier drones.
The Opinion allows flexibility for the EASA Member States. They will be able to define zones where drone operations will be either prohibited or restricted (for example, to protect sensitive areas), or where certain requirements are alleviated (for example, areas dedicated to model aircraft).