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UAS operations in the Specific Category

The EASA regulation for UAS will be coming into force on the 31st of December 2020 and from that moment many commercial drone operations will be conducted within the Specific Category. But what types of operation exactly fall into this category? And what requirements do you have to fulfil when operating within this category?

With the introduction of the European legislation it will no longer be possible for drone operators to apply for an operational authorisation under their national legislation. In stead they will have to fulfil the requirements of the #EASA Open or Specific Category. But how do you determine if your operations falls within the Open or Specific Category?


Operations within the Open Category


To determine if your operation falls within the Specific Category you will first have to rule out that your operation can be conducted in the #Open Category. So how can you do this? First of all operations within the Open Category have a few clear limitations, for example:


- Your operation can only be conducted up to 120 meters above surface level

- The maximum take-off weight of your drone must be less than 25 kgs

- Your operation may only be conducted within Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS)

- You can ensure a safe distance from people and you do not fly over assemblies of people

- You can not carry dangerous goods or drop any material from the drone


If your operation can not fulfil one of these requirements your operation will definitely be conducted within the Specific Category. But there is more. The Open Category is divided in three subcategories that allow specific types of operation based upon the weight of your drone. The table below provides a clear overview of the three subcategories and the associated weights.

So what can we extract from this table? When we take a closer look we will see that the following types of operations are not allowed within the Open Category: - Flights over an assembly of people with drones heavier than 250 grams

- Flights close to (within 30 meters) of uninvolved people with drones heavier than 900 grams

- Flights close to (within 150 meters) or within urban areas (such as residential-, recreational and industrial areas) with drones heavier than 4 kilograms


All these types of operations will therefore have to take place within the Specific or Certified Category. And to top it off, national (aviation) authorities are also allowed to designate certain zones as "Specific Category Only". These zones, for example areas around airports or heliports, will be shown on an airspace map - such as the one available in our AirHub Drone Operations App.


Now that we know when an operation takes place within the Specific Category we will take a look at how you can determine the requirements you will have to fulfil when operating within this category.


Operations within the Specific Category


If you want to operate within the Specific Category you will want to know what the airworthiness #requirements are for the drone that you will be flying, the procedures and limitations that will have to be described in your operations manual and what the requirements are for the flight crew (pilot, visual observer and/or payload operator).


So how do we determine these requirements? Basically there are three options for this. The first option is to subtract them from a national or EASA Standard Scenario (#STS). The second option is to subtract them from a Pre-Defined Risk Assessment (PDRA). The third option is to perform your own Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA). We will now further zoom in on these three options.


Standard Scenarios and PDRA


A Standard Scenario is a type of #UAS operation in the Specific Category for which a precise list of mitigating measures has been identified in such a way that the competent authority (CAA) can be satisfied with a declaration in which the operator declares that he will apply the mitigating measures when executing this type of operation.


Standard Scenarios can only be developed for operations of unmanned aircraft with: a) A maximum dimension of up to 3 meter in VLOS over a controlled ground area except over assemblies of people; b) A maximum dimension of up to 1 meter in VLOS except over assemblies of people; c) A maximum dimension of up to 1 meter in BVLOS over sparsely populated areas; d) A maximum dimension of up to 3 meter in BVLOS over a controlled ground area. Furthermore these operations must be performed below 120 meters from the surface of the earth and in uncontrolled airspace (class F or G) or in controlled airspace after coordination and individual flight authorisation in accordance with the published procedures for the area of operation.


When we look at the scope above we can conclude that only a limited amount of Standard Scenarios can be developed for which a declaration by the operator would be sufficient. But what about other operations that could be standardised but fall outside the scope mentioned above?


For these types of operations it is possible for national and European authorities to develop Pre-Defined Risk Assessments. A #PDRA is a type of UAS operation in the Specific Category for which a precise list of mitigating measures has been identified, just like a Standard Scenario. The difference is however that a declaration by the operator in which he declares that he will apply the mitigating measures when executing this type of operation is not sufficient. In this case the competent authority or a Qualified Entity will check the proof provided by the operator in the form of airworthiness certificates, pilot licences, applicable procedures and limitations stated in the operations manual, etc.


Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA)


If your operation is not covered by a Standard Scenario or a PDRA you can perform your own risk assessment in the form of a SORA. The Specific Operations Risk Assessment (#SORA) was developed by JARUS (the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems) to provide drone operators with an acceptable means of compliance to perform a risk assessment for UAS operations.


The SORA proposes risk barriers to prevent the operation from going out of control and provides harm barriers in case the operation does get out of control (e.g. an emergency response plan). The SORA process starts with defining an operational volume by the operator in which the drone operation takes place. This operational volume is related to airspace adjacent to it and the surrounding area on the ground. The SORA includes both a Ground Risk Model (#GRC) and an Air Risk Model (#ARC) to determine risks to the surrounding area and the adjacent airspace, and to propose mitigating measures that can decrease those risks.


If you would like to know more about the SORA, you should definitely read our blogpost that is fully dedicated to explaining the SORA. And are you looking for an easy way to perform a SORA we recommend you check out our Online SORA Tool.


Fulfilling the requirements


Now that you know how to assess if your operations falls within the Specific Category and you know how to determine the requirements applicable to your operation it is time to fulfil these requirements. So how can you do this? This is were we come in at AirHub.

How AirHub can help


At AirHub we have guided many organisations across various industries with setting up a safe, efficient and compliant drone operation. Contact us to take advantage of the experience and expertise of our consultants and trainers. Our consultants will guide you in applying the SORA risk analyses methodology and in setting up an operating manual specific to your operation. Our trainers will help your crew get certified and will train them in safely conducting your type of operation. And with our AirHub Drone Operations Management platform you will be able to efficiently plan, execute and manage your drone operations.


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