The majority of drone users who fly aircraft up to 4 kg will sit inside the Open category which in itself is broken down into 3 subcategories A1, A2 and A3.
Each subcategory has a type of aircraft specification ranging from C0 to C4 that will determine how you can fly in each sub-category.
Please note: At the moment of publication there are currently NO aircraft on the market that have been certified and stamped with a C0 to C4 class. There are transitional provisions for existing ‘legacy aircraft’ which we will cover in another article.
The Open Category -
A1 Subcategory- Fly ‘over’ people
The A1 subcategory will allow you to fly over people with a C0 class drone or you can fly with no intentional flight over uninvolved persons with a C1 class drone.
- C0 (toy) are toy aircraft that have a minimum take of mass ( MTOM) of no more than 250g. They are NOT fitted with a camera.
These drones and types of operations present a very low risk of harm or injury to other people due to their low weight, type of construction or have been deemed ‘inherently harmless’. -However, flight over open-air assemblies of people is not permitted.
C0 (not a toy) which is effectively an aircraft with a MTOM of no more than 250g but is fitted with a camera (or sensor).
The same standards apply as above, however, to fly this aircraft in this subcategory you will have to complete the DMARES (Drone and Model Aircraft Education Service) to get your Flyer ID and affix an Operator ID to the aircraft.
With any C0 aircraft, you can overfly people as long as it is not over an assembly of people.
Examples of an assembly of people are:
- cultural, religious or political events
- beaches or parks on a sunny day
- commercial streets during the opening hours of the shops
- ski resorts/tracks/lanes
These limitations are designed to minimise risk by avoiding circumstances where people are unable to move out of the way of the drone if it goes out of control.
- C1 are aircraft that are less than 900g MTOM or have no more than 80 joules of kinetic energy to a human head on impact. They also must not fly more than 19m/s (42.5 mph), needs a remote ID, will have noise limitations and geo-awareness.
- You can also fly home or privately built aircraft in the A1 category if the MTOM is less than 250g and flies no more than 19 m/s.
- To fly a C1 aircraft in the A1 subcategory you will have to complete the DMARES (Drone and Model Aircraft Education Service) to get your Flyer ID and affix an Operator ID to the aircraft
Privately built - less than 250g and max speed less than 19 m/s
If you have a privately built aircraft that has less than a 250g MTOM then you can fly over uninvolved people, but not over crowds like a C0 aircraft. If your privately built aircraft has a camera on it, you will need to get an Operator ID and affix it to the aircraft.
Open Category -
A2 Subcategory - Fly close to people
The A2 subcategory will allow you to fly closer to people if you hold an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 C of C) in the UK and are flying a C2 class aircraft.
You’ll be able to fly down to 30m of uninvolved people, or down to 5m if the aircraft has been switched to a low-speed mode.
The only aircraft you can fly in this category with the A2 C of C is the C2 class aircraft which is aircraft with a MTOM of no more than 4 kg.
- C2 class aircraft need to have less than a 4 kg MTOM, be ‘safely made’ as determined by EU manufacturer standards, it needs noise limitations, a remote ID and a form of geo awareness.
Please note: There are NO EXAMPLES of a C2 class aircraft on the market at the time of publishing this article
A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 C of C)
To get the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 C of C) that will allow you to fly C2 class aircraft down to 30m, or 5m in a low-speed mode, you firstly need to do the DMARES online examination to get the basic RP competency, and then you will need to take an additional theory test with an RAE (Recognised Assessment Entity) like UAVHub 🤗.
This will mean learning a syllabus and then sitting a 30 question closed book examination which you will have a minimum of 75 minutes to complete.
There is no practical flight test or operations manual required as part of the course, however, the student will need to have completed a period of practical flight training, either under the guidance of an RAE or under self-monitored circumstances.
The student must declare in writing that they have completed the DMARES and flight training before taking the A2 C of C written examination.
As soon as you pass the written exam you’ll be instantly qualified to fly in the A2 category with a C2 aircraft without having to apply to the CAA.
Your qualification lasts for 5 years, after which you’ll have to renew it.
Open Category -
A3 - far from people
The last subcategory in the Open category is A3 which is where you must not fly within 150m of residential, commercial, industrial, or recreational areas and no uninvolved people must be present within the area of flight.
This subcategory applies to C3 and C4 aircraft.
- C3 class aircraft must comply to Delegated Regulation standards (EU manufacturing standards) which include that the aircraft must have a MTOM of less than 25kg, a remote ID and must have geo awareness.
- To fly a C3 aircraft in the A3 subcategory you will have to complete the DMARES (Drone and Model Aircraft Education Service) to get your Flyer ID and affix an Operator ID to the aircraft
- C4 class again must comply to delegated regulation standards, be less than 25kg MTOM but are more akin to traditional model aircraft with no automation.
- To fly a C4 aircraft in the A3 subcategory you will have to complete the DMARES (Drone and Model Aircraft Education Service) to get your Flyer ID and affix an Operator ID to the aircraft.
Please note: You can also fly home built or privately built aircraft that are less than 25kg MTOM in the A3 subcategory.
Still a little confused? Listen to Matt our CEO talk about the Open Category and the benefits of the A2 Certificate of Competency!
When will the new aircraft be on the market?
By June 2022 all Unmanned aircraft on the market must comply with the classes C0 to C4. We anticipated the the first aircraft with a C0 through to C4 aircraft to be on the market by 1st July 2020 but alas, we are still waiting!
Please note: At the time of this publication, there are NO aircraft that a registered as C0 - C4 on the market.
There are transitional provisions in place for what we will call Legacy aircraft that were placed on the market before June 2022 and don't have a class type. Click Here to read more about the transitional provisions.
What happens if I have a PfCO ?
If you already have a current CAA OA (formerly PfCO) and an NQE Recommendation Certificate, we have an option to convert your NQE Recommendation Certificate over to a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate.
This will allow you to get an Operational Authorisation (OA) with additional 'Bolt-ons'* such as EVLOS and BVLOS (when these become available)
Where can I find MORE information?
There are a number of resources currently available where you can find out more about the upcoming regulations, new terminology and 'qualifications'.
- CAP 1789 - The EU UAS Regulation Package – Outline
- EASA Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance Material (GM) to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947
- CAP 722B - Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – National Qualified Entity
It’s a very exciting and sometimes confusing time for new operators and training organisations to adapt to the latest regulations . The new subcategories and aircraft within the Open Category open up a huge opportunity for people to conduct flight operations with smaller aircraft that just weren’t possible under previous UK regulations without holding an Operating Safety Case.
As older aircraft leave the market in a few years and every aircraft on the market holds a class certification, things should start to get more straightforward.
We’ll do everything we can to help our customers with the transition in regards to potential further training, and/or upgrading aircraft to the new class certifications as and when we can.
We'll keep you updated with more blogs , podcasts and videos to try and help explain the process.
More to come!