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Regulators ponder proposed EASA UAV changes

EASA’s recent proposed ruling that it takes regulatory responsibility for smaller unmanned air vehicles has left national aviation agencies questioning what category of small UAVs they will be left to regulate.

Under the proposed ruling released in March, a new framework would “render obsolete the limit of 150kg included in Annex II of the EASA Founding Regulation separating drones regulated nationally and those regulated at European level”, EASA says.

Prior to this change, national aviation authorities were responsible for mandating laws surrounding the use of UAVs below this weight category within their own airspaces, although it is unknown what size aircraft they will continue to regulate should the proposal come into force.

“There will be a lower limit [below 150kg] but it is still to be defined,” Gerry Corbett, UAS programme lead for the Safety and Airspace Regulation Group within the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, told the Sky Tech conference in London.

EASA’s lower-limit plans are not known, but it is expected that authorities will still have control over systems around the 20-30kg mark and below.

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In line with other elements of EASA’s proposed ruling – under which UAV regulations will be proportionate to their operation – there could potentially be a weight category that is unregulated because it would fall under EASA’s “open” category that does not require aviation authority permission.

However, because this approach has been categorised as risk-based, weight categories could eventually not be such a distinguishable factor, says Andre Clot, centre director for independent approvals specialist EuroUSC, and altitude, airspeed and power might be more telling of the risk that a particular system poses.

Corbett adds that EASA’s proposal moves away from a solely mass-based risk system – noting that a large system operating in a remote area potentially poses less risk than a small system operating over a dense public space – but claims that weight will be a starting point for any new regulatory classification.

“Mass I think will remain a determining factor,” he adds, claiming that it is easier to educate the public on what they are permitted to do with UAVs by using mass as a measure.

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