The EU drone regulations have brought us the...

Everything you need to know about the SPECIFIC category of the EU drone regulation

The SPECIFIC category of the new EU drone regulation provides new scope for drone applications. We summarise the most important innovations for you.

Contents

    The EU drone regulations have brought us the OPEN, SPECIFIC and CERTIFIED categories. The special category is a particularly interesting innovation. You can find out why in this article.

    What is the SPECIFIC category?

    The specific category is for all drone operators who want more than the open category allows. This includes the following examples:

    Example 1 - Flying an entire residential area as a 3D model: If, for example, you are an infrastructure provider and want to model large, populated areas, you need a correspondingly large drone. However, drones with a take-off mass of more than 2 kg may not be operated closer than 150 m to populated areas. This is therefore a case for the SPECIAL category.

    Example 2 - Inspecting a pipeline or high-voltage power line: Such large infrastructures usually run through industrial areas, under federal waterways or through nature reserves. All of these areas are subject to a flight ban for drones weighing over 2 kg. We would also like to be allowed to fly beyond visual range in order to reach our destination more quickly. All of this belongs in the SPECIAL category.

    The ticket to this world of large-scale and special projects is the operating licence.

    Figure 1: OPEN category vs. SPECIAL category of the EU drone regulation

    The key to a competitive advantage: operating licence

    Those who obtain an operating licence for their projects have a clear competitive advantage. You have four options for obtaining such an authorisation. The choice depends on the complexity and frequency of the mission. There is a choice:

    • STS (from 12/2023) = pre-filled risk analysis for standard missions with a certified drone

    • PDRA = pre-filled risk analysis for standard missions with non-certified drone

    • SORA = comprehensive risk analysis

    • LUC (from 12/2023) = certification of own company to be able to authorise missions itself

    Please note that only PDRA and SORA are available until the end of 2023.

    STS vs. PDRA vs. SORA für Drohnen im EU-Recht

    By submitting a simple declaration, so-called standard scenarios (STS) can be used from 3 December 2023, i.e. you do not have to wait for a response from the authority, but simply get started after submitting the documents. If this is not sufficient or available, for example because existing drones are to be used, predefined risk analyses ( PDRA) can help. Both are a particularly successful invention within the specific category and minimise the effort of a SORA (= Specific Operations Risk Assessment). The latter is only necessary in its entirety if, for example, no controlled area can be created on the ground. If flights of the same type regularly take place at different locations, it is worth taking a look at the advantages of the so-called Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC) . More details can be found in the following text.

    What are the advantages of standard scenarios (STS)?

    STS are intended to streamline the application process. The name was aptly chosen: standard scenarios include all application scenarios that are frequently requested in practice and are not permitted without special authorisation. The legislator standardises these cases and then makes them available as STS. Instead of a nerve-wracking administrative act, only the really necessary data is required for the authorisation of an STS - a win-win situation for everyone involved.

    A list of the currently available and announced ST S for Germany is available here.

    If you wish to use an STS, you must submit a declaration of operation . The declaration includes the following:

    • Operating manual

    • STS-specific certificate of competence for remote pilots (= additional examination for large drone licence)

    • Proof of sufficient insurance cover

    • Drone class C5 or C6 (depending on STS) and regular maintenance of the drone

    The costs for processing the operating declaration amount to approx. 200€ and are invoiced by the LBA. The certificate of proficiency is issued by recognised bodies - usually those that also issue A2 drone pilot licences.

    ATTENTION: It will take until December 2023 before the standard scenarios are introduced, as there are currently no certified drones. Until then, national scenarios can be used in accordance with Implementing Regulation 2021/1166.

    Can't find a suitable STS? View PDRAs.

    What to do if no convenient STS is available? Don't worry, you won't have to resort to a manual application straight away. The intermediate step is called Pre-Defined Risk Assessment, or PDRA for short. Behind this are many predefined missions that carry a higher risk than STS missions and are frequently encountered in everyday life.

    PDRA-S: The STS for non-certified drones

    If you want to fly a drone without a C5 or C6 CE class in an STS scenario, you can use a PDRA-S (e.g. PDRA-S01 or -S02). Obviously, the application is somewhat more complex than for a real STS. Nevertheless, the time required is very limited.

    PDRA-G: Template for frequently occurring missions

    PDRA-Gs are structured like STS and differ only in the higher risks of the mission. The usable templates are called PDRA-G01 and -G02, for example.

    A list of the PDRAs currently available in Germany can be found inour FAQ entry.

    The individual way: SORA.

    If no suitable STS or PDRA can be found, the classic SORA (= Specific Operations Risk Assessment) is the way to go. You can find out what a SORA is in our FAQ entry. In short: You write a detailed report on the planned operation, possible risks and risk minimisation measures. The Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA) inspects your project and issues an authorisation. The costs range from €200 to €2000 for a licence and €40 to €400 for an extension. The maximum term per authorisation is limited to two years.

    We are talking about a SORA-EU (also called EASA-SORA) according to standardised European specifications. The German SORA-GER will thus be replaced by a transnational procedure. Advantage: Assignments in other European countries are authorised via a familiar application procedure.

    The process of creating a SORA-EU has been written by EASA in a 110-page set of rules (source: Regulation (EU) 2019/947 Article 11).

    The building blocks of a SORA

    Operations Manual

    First of all, your own project must be described in detail and recorded in the Operations Manual (OM), formerly also known as ConOps (Concept of Operation) or operating concept.

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    This operations manual contains all information on the flight plan, the operator's structural organisation and the equipment used, including technical data, pilots, any support personnel and their level of training.

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    Determination of the Specific Assurance and Integrity Level (SAIL for short)

    The risk on the ground(Ground Risk Class - GRC) and the risk in the air(Air Risk Class - ARC) can now be determined from the flight plan and together they form a SAIL level. Put simply, the higher the risk, the higher the SAIL. however, the risk can be reduced through organisational and technical measures.

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    OSO (Operational Safety Objectives)

    The robustness of the selected measures is verified on the basis of the OSOs. This ranges from the company's own declarations, to evidence from its own tests or tests carried out by third parties, to airworthiness certificates that are already known from manned aviation. (ETSO)

    The keyword is FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis). This analysis is used to identify potential sources of error from the outset, recognise their significance and evaluate them in order to derive suitable preventive measures to avoid them if necessary.

    Die Specific Assurance and Integrity Level (SAIL) ordnen eine Drohnenmission in eine Risikoklasse ein.

    Figure 3: SAIL classes

    For professionals: Become a LUC and authorise SORAs yourself.

    For all users who constantly have to submit SORAs for a certain type of operation, the law offers a convenient way out: Become a LUC and authorise your operations yourself! LUC stands for Light UAS Operator Certificate and means that you are particularly familiar with the risks and countermeasures for a specific type of drone operation and have anchored their implementation in reliable processes in your organisation.

    Das Betriebshandbuch oder Concept of Operations (ConOps) beschreibt den typischen Betriebsablauf vor und während einer Drohnenmission.

    Figure 4: ConOps structure

    Are you looking for answers, not more question marks?

    Some people will be deeply confused by the legal situation and we can understand that. We want to make your flight project as pleasant as possible and, in addition to individual consultations, we offer you the opportunity to check your flight project depending on your level of knowledge. We will provide you with the necessary applications and the relevant contact persons.

    In addition, we provide support during approval procedures by formulating operating procedures (ConOps) and offer standardised checklists that we can adapt to your individual needs.

    If the authorities require an expert opinion (Section 21i (2) LuftVO), please contact us. Benefit from our many years of experience.

    All of these procedures ultimately serve the safety of unmanned aviation and strengthen the acceptance of new trends and technologies among the general public.