An overview of the current UAV regulations, and the misconceptions of aviation background requirements for flying a UAV/drone.

Evolve Dynamics’ Head of Flight Operations, Alan Perrin shares his expertise and explains the recent changes in drone regulations, by giving further insight into the different UAV categories that currently exist. Alan discusses the misconceptions of aviation background requirements for flying a UAV/drone, the importance of safety and risk assessment and talks about how easy it is to fly a Sky Mantis.

What are the current regulations? What are the main requirements for flying?

In the beginning of 2021, the regulations for drone use around the world changed quite considerably, leading many Aviation Authorities to adopt new regulations. These changes are mostly in line with EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) regulations throughout Europe, with just a few small differences.

The most notable change is that flying a drone is no longer classed as commercial or hobby use. Instead, UAV/drone use is broken down into weight categories and design classes to ensure all drones meet the criteria for a safe operation. For commercial use though, Operators must have commercial UAV insurance.

While the broad spread of classes and categories can be quite confusing initially, it is quite simple to work out which category and size of drone can be flown and where.

What are the relevant categories and why is it important for you to know them before flying?

In the UK and Europe, there are 3 categories, the Open, Specific and Certified.

Let’s discount the Certified category for now as it’s intended for larger and more complicated drones that need ‘certification’ under the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).

That leaves the ‘Open’ category and the ‘Specific’ category.

The Open category has been created to allow most users to fly a drone without needing to complete any complicated paperwork. Prospective pilots only need to be an operator with the CAA, read the Drone Code and take a short simple online test. This will generate for them an Operator I.D. and a Pilot I.D. which must be displayed on the aircraft.

It is important to know the 3 sub-categories that lay under the Open category as these determine how close the drone can fly to people. These are listed below: 

CategoryDescriptionWhat is needed to fly
A1Flight ‘over people’ – restricted to the smallest of drones, weighing under 250gNo special permissions, just your Operator and Pilot I.D
A2Flight ‘close to people’ – drones that are designed to have safety features such as slow flight and detection to allow them to fly closer to people. This is reserved for drones upto 4kg.Need the A2CofC test (certificate of competency) and your Operator and Pilot I.D
A3Flight ‘far from people’ – includes drones up to 25kg but there are strict requirements for separation distances that must be adhered to.Your Operator and Pilot I.D and must obey separation requirements.
For further information visit the UK CAA website

The Specific category is for Operators who may need to fly closer than the Open category allows or may have special requirements. Pilots in the Specific category are normally required to have a competency qualification and the Operator will have an Operational Authorisation from the CAA. 

For example, Sky Mantis – when flown within the specified distance requirements – falls under the A3 sub-category. However should the Operator want to fly closer to people (less than 150m away), Sky Mantis is under the Specific Category.

Is it important to be experienced in aviation? Do you need to have any practical flying background? 

It’s not important to be experienced in aviation but it is important to have consideration for other aviation. There are strict limits on how far away and how high a drone can fly, to prevent any problems with the person carrying out aviation.

Many of the drones available today are very simple to fly, with software features that stabilise the drone to allow easy flight control for the beginner. 

Many drones also have GPS to hold them in a fixed position in the sky.

In the near future there will be requirements to have a system onboard the drone that alerts the drone pilot about other aviation that is in the area helping the drone pilot to be more aware.

If you’re going to fly in a category that requires you to have a permission from an aviation authority, they will normally require you to have a certain amount of practical experience of drone flying before you can apply.

How easy is it to fly a Sky Mantis?

Sky Mantis, which falls under the A3 sub-category, is designed to be simple to fly, with operators needing to fly the system in all weathers and possibly while wearing gloves as Sky Mantis system is designed to be flown in extremes of weather. The flight control system stabilises the aircraft and keeps it level and the GCS presents all necessary information to fly the aircraft in a clear and readable format.

Sky Mantis’ flight modes ensure that the aircraft is flown in the most safe and efficient manner possible and the long flight duration of 1 hour allows operators to complete flights with less worry about battery use.

Evolve Dynamics are constantly working to reduce Pilot load and help operators to fly more safely and efficiently. We have recently introduced extra features to allow Mission Planning with an automatic flight mode and remote operation of the camera by a second operator.

Overall, Sky Mantis is designed to be simple to operate and Pilots can be trained to operate the system easily in just a day.

A Summary of the basic drone rules

  1. All aviation is covered in some way by a country’s Aviation Authority and drones are no different.
  2. In most countries, smaller drones now have less restrictions to their operation with drones under 250g being almost free of restrictions entirely being able to fly over people.
  3. Larger drones will always require some permission to use unless being used ‘far from people’ 
  4. Specialist drones, large drones and those weighing over 25kg will need special certified permission to operate from an aviation authority.
  5. Commercial drone use, as a business tool, will require commercial UAV insurance.
  6. To be able to fly closer to people and buildings, drone use in most countries will require a qualification and registration.