In the previous article, we took a look at the regulations and possible implementations for drone Remote ID with particular reference to the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This article focuses on the details laid down by the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which must be followed by all drone operators in every EU member state.
Due to the current scarcity of Remote ID solutions on the market, compliance with EASA regulations relating to Remote ID has been postponed to January 1st, 2024.
EASA drone operator registration requirements
Before we look at the specifics of Remote ID requirements, it is worth looking at the conditions under which drone operators must register themselves with their country’s national aviation authority. Note that this registration applies to the operator themselves – unmanned aircraft only need to be registered for certain certified operations.
“Drone operator” refers to the person who owns or rents the drone. Pilots working for a drone service provider are not responsible for registration – here, the company is the “drone operator”.
Drone operators must undergo registration unless:
- Their drone weighs less than 250 grams (including payload), AND has no camera or other sensor that can capture personal data
- Their drone weighs less than 250 grams (including payload), AND is classified as a toy (compliance with Directive 2009/48/EC, but broadly speaking means that the drone is intended for play by children aged under 14)
If a drone operator is registered, they will receive a registration number that is valid throughout the entire EU and must be physically displayed on all owned drones using a sticker.
This number must also be entered into the Remote ID system of all owned drones.
The EASA drone classification scheme
Under the EASA regulations, drones are classified according to a number of factors including weight and the risk factor of their intended operation. The scheme has been divided according to both categories and class.
Classes serve a similar purpose to CE markings on other EU-certified products. There are seven classes, C0-C6, that are largely divided by weight, with other factors also applying that differentiate classes C3-C6 further.
The three categories are Open, Specific, and Certified, and are based on the risk of accidents while a particular drone is operating.
A full breakdown of the differences between the various categories and classes is beyond the scope of this article, and so the next section will provide some highlights as they relate to Remote ID. To find out more details about the specifics of EASA drone classification.
EASA regulations on Remote ID
The EASA has settled on Direct Remote ID (also known as Broadcast Remote ID) as its initial method of implementation. Almost all drones must be equipped with Direct Remote ID capabilities. The exceptions are:
- Class 0 drones – these are drones with a weight of less than 250 grams including payload
- Class 3 drones that are tethered. These drones must weigh less than 25 kg including payload, be completely electrically-powered, have a tether with length of less than 50 metres, be equipped with a geo-awareness function, and alert the pilot when battery is low with sufficient time to land.
- Class 4 drones – these are drones weighing less than 25 kg that have no automatic control modes other than flight stabilization. This ruling is effectively designed for model aircraft.
Drones may comply with Direct Remote ID requirements either with a built-in broadcast functionality or an add-on module that satisfies EASA requirements.
Data must be broadcast in real time for the entire duration of the flight using an open and documented protocol, and must be able to be received by any mobile devices within range. While some of the details are still under development, it is known that the protocol will not be ADS-B.
The required data includes:
- The drone operator registration number, plus additional verification provided by the registration system
- The unique serial number of the drone
- Geographical position of the drone and height above surface or takeoff point
- Heading and ground speed of the drone
- Geographical position of the operator or takeoff point
- Emergency status
Both built-in Remote ID systems and add-on modules must be designed in such a way as to prevent users from modifying all data other than the operator registration number.
How BVLOS operations are classified by the EASA
BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) drone operations, as with the FAA, require special procedures. Any drones classified under the Open category must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS), meaning that BVLOS flights will fall under either Specific or Certified categories.
Drone operations classified as Specific must comply either with a standard scenario defined by the EASA, or with limitations set out in a case-by-case authorization.
The Certified category applies to drones undertaking the riskiest operations, including transportation of people and dangerous goods, and flights over people. Certified BVLOS drone operations will thus include urban air mobility (UAM), as well as applications such as package delivery and inspections taking place in urban areas.
A robust communications solution for EASA-compliant drones
As we have seen, the EASA has declared that all BVLOS drones must be equipped with Remote ID. While initially the mandated solution is Direct Remote ID, in the future regulations may change to require the communication of information to a third-party service provider. This Network Remote ID functionality will enable tracking of drones over longer distances, and allow the safe co-ordination of more complex missions in national airspace.
No matter what your mission or the regulatory environment that you have to comply with, Elsight’s Halo platform provides a robust connectivity solution that provides maximum safety for BVLOS operations. The carrier-agnostic system can aggregate up to four cellular channels into one single link, with advanced AI-powered traffic-balancing features. Halo also fits into an extremely small SWaP (size, weight and power) footprint, making it ideal for drones in a variety of EASA classes and categories.
To find out more about how Halo can help you develop your EASA-compliant BVLOS drone platform, please get in touch!