Unmanned Aircrafts - Categories

The EU regulations 2019/947 and 2019/945 set out the framework for safe operations of civil drones in European skies. It adopts a risk-based approach and caters for most types of civil drone operations with various levels of risks.

There are three main categories of civil drone operations: the Open Category, the Specific Category, and the Certified Category.

Note that an insurance for your drone is always required if you are using a drone with a weight above 900g. Although most EASA Member States authorize a third-party insurance also if you are operating a lighter drone. Please consult the national regulation. For more information, please visit EASA’s official website about Civil Drones.

Specific Category

The specific category encompasses riskier operations not covered under open category. To operate in this category, an operational authorisation from the national competent authority is required for the drone operator before beginning the operation. The drone operator performs a risk assessment to obtain the operational authorisation to clarify the necessary requirements needed for a safe operation with the civil drone(s).

Certified Category

The certified category requires a certification of the drone operator and its drone, as well as the licensing of the remote pilot(s). This is crucial as the safety risk is high in this category and safety must be ensured.

Open Category

The open category is the main benchmark for most leisure drone activities and low-risk commercial activities, where safety is ensured where the operator complies with the relevant requirements for its intended operation.

It comprises 3 sub-categories of considered unmanned aircrafts, each one of them with its own set of requirements, – A1, A2, A3 – that can be summed up as follows:

  • Sub-category A1 – fly over people but not over assemblies of people

  • Sub-category A2 – fly close to people

  • Sub-category A3 – fly far from people

In this category, the unmanned aircraft is considered to have a maximum take-off mass of less than 25kg and placed on the single market with a European class (EC) conformity marking. However, there are some exceptions mentioned in the transitional and particular rules of Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947. Moreover, it is important to identify the sub-category of operation your activities will fall under, to determine which rules apply to you, and the type of training the remote pilot needs to undertake. See EASA’s FAQ about this topic.

Remote pilots in the open category do not require an operational authorization from the State’s representative organization.

The following general rules of an operational nature apply to open category operators of all subcategories:

  • Operate VLOS (in line of sight);

  • No access to prohibited zones such as airports and heliports ( article no.15 of Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 );

  • Operate in civil aerodromes and heliports, without control zone (CTR) or traffic zone (ATZ) or with ATZ (in uncontrolled airspace) up to 120m from the surface with the authorization of the Aerodrome Director (no authorization from State’s representative organization);

  • They operate at most up to 120 m above the ground;

  • Gliders can be operated up to 120m above the ground, but never 120m above the remote pilot (remote pilot on top of a mountain operating the aircraft over a valley);

  • They can fly 15m above an artificial obstacle that is more than 105m high, if it does not depart more than 50m from the obstacle and is at the request of the responsible entity.

  • It is possible to fly night or day.

The operational risk in this category is considered low and, therefore, no operational authorization is required before starting a flight. However, unmanned aircraft belonging to the open category may not fly over gatherings of people.

Remote operators and pilots shall comply with the operational or access conditions of geographical areas, which are published in each State representative organization’s website. Please visit your State representative organization’s website for more information.

In Portugal, visit ANAC official website for more information.

For more information, please do visit EASA’s official website about Civil Drones.

You are also invited to visit EASA’s FAQ to clarify any general doubts and questions.

Beyond Vision’s UAVs belong to C3 class and as such can be operated under the rules of the A3 sub-category of the Open Category. That said, only the open operation subcategory A3 will be addressed.

Subcategory A3 (does not require operational authorization from the National Authority)

  • The operator may operate only if he is reasonably certain that no person involved will be at risk within the range of the unmanned aircraft throughout the flight;

  • More than 150m of residential, commercial, industrial or recreational sites must be operated;

  • Remote pilots require a proof (certificate) of completion of training and distance examination A1/A3 (training, distance examination and certificate issued by a Competent Authority of any Member State of the European Union, i.e. ANAC or any other);

  • The operation of the following drones is accepted: * No CE class marking – those developed at home (home construction) and without European conformity class marking, with maximum take-off mass, including any load (weight of the drone plus payload or any other attached component) may be used, less than 25Kg; * With CE class marking - unmanned aircraft with European class conformity marking C2, C3 provided they also contain:

    1. Electronic remote identification system (the remote operator shall enter into the system the operator registration number provided by ANAC);

    2. Active and up-to-date geospatial reconnaissance function (the drone must have a system for viewing geographic areas and to import AREAS OF ANAC referred to as “No-fly zone”)

For more information, visit EASA’s official website.