Although the government has relaxed some restrictions, Leonardo is restricting access to the site to essential workers only. Club members should please be aware of this, and not attempt to gain access for flying.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has now published the Technical Opinion and Draft Regulations for Unmanned Aircraft. All of the documents can be found on the EASA website here: https://www.easa.europa.eu/document-library/opinions/opinion-012018
Model aircraft remain within the scope of these Regulations, but thanks to the lobbying carried out on behalf of the model flying community by Europe Air Sports, the Basic Regulation (which underpins these regulations and specifies what they should regulate) does include an article which offers our established activities some protection:
(20c) Model aircraft are considered as unmanned aircraft within the meaning of this Regulation and are used primarily for leisure activities. The delegated and implementing acts adopted under this on the basis of Regulation and concerning unmanned aircraft should take into account that such model aircraft have so far had a good safety record, especially those operated by members of model aircraft associations or clubs which developed specific codes of conduct for such activities. In addition, when adopting those delegated and implementing acts, the Commission should take account of the need for a seamless transition from the different national systems to the new Union regulatory framework so that model aircraft can continue to operate as they do today, also by taking into account existing best practices in the Member States.
The other important change agreed to the Basic Regulation is that it no longer mandates the registration of each individual aircraft – just the pilot.
The Basic Regulation gained political agreement on 22nd December, 2017 and is expected to come into force in Summer 2018.
It is anticipated that the EASA Opinion and Draft Regulations for Unmanned Aircraft will be adopted by the European Commission in the final quarter of 2018 with the final ‘Decision’ scheduled for the first quarter of 2019.
There are three options available for model flying within the regulations:
Operation within the Open Category
This Open Category is intended for those operating as individuals outside of an association or club. Model flying will fall within subcategory A3 (away from uninvolved people) of the Open Category and can be conducted with aircraft up to 25Kg within the C3, C4 or ‘privately built’ classes.
The C4 class was specifically developed to reflect conventional model aircraft and imposes a minimum set of technical requirements (the aircraft should not be capable of automatic flight and consumer information to raise awareness of the regulations must be included).
The minimum age restriction has now been removed (this is to be left to Member States to decide) as has the requirement to register individual aircraft, but the height limit of 120 metres remains. There is also a requirement for some form of online competency training with an online test to try and ensure that the pilot is aware of the law and the requirements for safe operation.
Electronic identification and geoawareness (probably involving the use of a phone app) is only mandatory if ‘required by the zone of operation’.
Operation within designated ‘Zones’
Article 11 provides Member States with an option to designate specific ‘zones’ for model flying to take place, primarily for those pilots who are not members of a model aircraft association or club. These zones could define different operating parameters to those required by the Open Category (such as an increased altitude limit for instance). The relevant paragraph from Article 11 reads:
2. Member States may define airspace in which UAS operations are exempted from one or more of the ‘open’ category requirements of this Regulation, and in which operators are not required to hold an authorisation or submit a declaration.
Operation within the Specific Category
In recognition of the good safety record established over many years by model flying associations throughout Europe, the proposed regulations allow competent authorities (in our case the Civil Aviation Authority) to issue an operational authorisation (within the Specific Category) to model associations and clubs which can define deviations from the regulations to reflect established custom and practice and operating parameters (such as altitude limits). This is outlined in Article 6:
For UAS operations conducted in the framework of model clubs or associations, the following apply:
- the competent authority may issue an operational authorisation, in accordance with UAS.SPEC.040, to a model club or association without further demonstration of compliance, on the basis of the model club’s or association’s established procedures, organisational structure, and management system;
- operational authorisations granted under this Article shall include the conditions and limitations of, as well as the deviations from, the requirements of the Annex (Part-UAS) to this Regulation;
- this authorisation shall be limited to the territory of the Member State where the authorisation was issued.
It is anticipated that the associations currently recognised by the CAA (BMFA, LMA, SAA and FPVUK) will operate under this type of authorisation and our hope is that this will enable us to continue to operate as we do today. To benefit from an authorisation of this type, the regulations do place some responsibilities on model clubs and associations, but these are now slightly less onerous than those proposed originally:
UAS.SPEC.055 Responsibilities of model clubs and associations
Model clubs and associations that hold an operational authorisation defined in Article 6 of this Regulation shall:
- make available to their registered members appropriate procedures to comply with the conditions and limitations defined in the operational authorisation issued by the competent authority;
- assist UAS remote pilots, who are registered members of the club or association, in achieving the minimum competency required to operate the UAS safely in accordance with the procedures defined in paragraph 1;
- take appropriate action when informed that a registered member does not comply with the conditions and limitations defined in the operational authorisation and, if necessary, inform the competent authority;
- provide, upon request from the competent authority, the documentation required for oversight and monitoring purposes.
From the outset, we argued to exclude model flying from the scope of these regulations but could not gain political support for this. However, a compromise was reached with recognition being given to model flying within the Basic Regulation. The result of this was that EASA was then compelled to incorporate more favourable provisions for model flying within their regulations for unmanned aircraft.
Whilst not an ideal outcome, the draft regulations are perhaps a little more proportionate than those originally proposed. The provisions within the ‘Specific Category’ provide the majority of Member States with sufficient flexibility to allow model flying to continue largely as it does today, but this will ultimately depend upon interpretation and implementation within individual Member States and the level of co-operation from governments and national regulators.
As such, representatives from the UK Model Flying Associations are working in co-ordination to negotiate with the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority to try and ensure that any changes to UK regulations are fair, proportionate and based on a genuine assessment of the level of risk. These negotiations remain ongoing at the present time.
What about Brexit?
At present (as with all things Brexit) it is unclear whether the UK will remain part of the EASA regulatory system or not. At present the indications are that the UK will either remain bound by the EASA rules or will choose to replicate them in national law.
From the BMFA website.
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Prototype Rules
The second of four scheduled EASA ‘Expert Group’ meetings to discuss and refine the ‘Prototype Rules’ took place in Cologne on 14th December. Areas covered included possible differentiation of commercial/recreational operations, requirements for registration, electronic identification and age restrictions. The next meeting will take place on the 23rd & 24th January and will focus on the requirements for operations within their proposed ‘Open Category’ (for aircraft operating within strictly defined product specifications and operational parameters, but not requiring an authorisation by an Aviation Authority).
EASA are aiming to publish their proposed rules (taking into account the input from the ‘Expert Group’) for formal consultation by the end of March 2017. Feedback received will be collated into a CRD (comment review document) and will be taken into consideration in drafting the final version of the rules.
At this time, EASA has yet to be granted the competence to regulate small unmanned aircraft but it is envisaged that the changes required to the EASA Basic Regulation to facilitate this will be approved by the European Parliament and European Council in September 2017.
UK Government Launches Consultation on ‘Drones’
At the end of December, the UK Government (through the Department for Transport) launched a public consultation on drones. The stated objective is to ‘introduce new measures to ensure the successful uptake of drones is matched by strong safeguards to protect the public’.
Potential measures proposed within the consultation include:
- mandatory registration of new drones
- tougher penalties for illegal flying near no-fly zones and new signs for no-fly zones at sensitive sites such as airports and prisons
- making drones electronically identifiable so the owner’s details can be passed to police if they are spotted breaking the law
The consultation is aimed primarily at the aviation industry and stakeholders, including general aviation and model aircraft flyers and associations. You can read the consultation document and find a link to respond online here
The Government’s assumption is that the large majority of breaches of safety, privacy and data protection laws happen because some ‘leisure’ drone users are unaware of the laws that apply – but they also recognise the good practice and standards that most model aircraft and drone groups advocate amongst their members.
The majority of the consultation relates primarily to ‘drones’, but there is a specific question relating to excluding model aircraft from proposed registration requirements:
6.14 Model aircraft. This registration policy could also apply to model aircraft weighing 250g and over. There could also be an option within the registration policy to exclude model aircraft and their owners from the requirement, perhaps by exempting those belonging to model aircraft flying clubs from the requirement, as they have a recognised and long standing safety culture.
Consultation Question 27. Do you support registration requirement not applying for certain owners of model aircraft below 20 kilograms in weight? Why?
The argument put forward by the UK model flying Associations is that our members are effectively already registered and given the excellent safety record established by model flyers over the last century, there is no safety case for imposing a duplicate registration system.
The BMFA is in direct discussion with the DfT and will be meeting with them directly in the near future (along with representatives from other UK model flying Associations) to re-iterate the case for ensuring that model flyers are not subjected to unnecessary and disproportionate regulations.
The feedback received during the consultation process will be used to help ‘shape’ future Government Policy and I would ask all members to provide their own feedback directly to the DfT (with an emphasis on retaining the established rights of model flyers!). The consultation is open until 15th March 2017.
Reprinted from the BMFA Club Bulletin.
The Current Position
It is difficult to have missed the huge explosion in popularity of multirotor aircraft equipped with cameras, or “drones” to use the more common reference.
Sadly not all the publicity has been good and the media have very much “jumped on” on the relatively small number of negative stories involving the irresponsible and unlawful use of drones.
The BMFA has maintained a close working relationship with the Civil Aviation Authority who have ultimate responsibility for all aviation in the UK, and we have jointly worked on a number of initiatives to inform and educate new drone pilots, particularly those who are not coming into model flying through the more established route of traditional model aircraft and club membership.
Of course the latest technological developments have made drones far more accessible to the general public, through lower pricing and perhaps more significantly, ease of use and operation. For the first time ever it is possible for a complete newcomer to purchase a radio controlled aircraft (in this context we are talking mainly “drones”), completely ready to run and having charged the battery, to go out and fly with no training, experience or prior knowledge, it is exactly this type of new pilot that we are wanting to target in order that they can be provided with the knowledge and information to fly safely and lawfully.
A Joint Initiative
We [the BMFA] are working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on the concept of the Drone Awareness initiative as they also see the benefit in educating and informing the wider general public on the safe and lawful operation of drones.
The Drone Awareness initiative will be taking place for the whole month of April 2016 and will feature a number of elements which combined will help to raise awareness of the legal requirements and considerations when operating a drone, and also to help improve public perception and knowledge of drones. Of course, an important aspect of the initiative is to raise awareness of the BMFA as the “go to” association for sport and recreational drone and model aircraft pilots, both in terms of the insurance package provided as part of the membership, and also in terms of the range of services and support provided to members and also the benefits of being part of a recognised and well respected association.
BMFA Members and Clubs
The beginning of the Drone Awareness Month will be marked by a high profile launch with significant press attendance, however the primary aim is to involve BMFA members, Areas and clubs as part of the ongoing activity, clubs that feature drones and multirotors as part of their regular activity will be encouraged to put on events and initiatives, not only to raise awareness and knowledge in their specific area but also as a method of recruiting new members.
We [the BMFA] will be contacting clubs and making resources packs available early in the New Year and further updates will be published as the project moves forward.
Partners and Sponsors
The aim is to engage a range of partners to support Drone Aware and to help in promoting the initiative as widely as possible, both from inside the modelling trade and also with external organisations.
We are already working with a number of organisations and clubs and the initial response has been very positive, if you would like you club to be involved then contact the BMFA office for further information. Keep an eye on the BMFA website for further updates and also the dedicated Drone Aware website www.droneaware.org.
A smart phone friendly version of the site can be viewed using the QR code below.
The message is “Be Safe, be lawful, be drone aware”
Well done to all those that signed the petition. It reached over 10,000 signatures and Government responded:
National policy and guidance recognises the importance of airfields, we will work with the aviation sector to ensure the current policy relating to development on airfields is better understood.
Brownfield land is defined, for the purpose of national planning policy prior to and in the National Planning Policy Framework, as land that has been previously developed. Airfields, as land that has been previously developed, are therefore regarded as brownfield land. A central premise of the policy has been and remains that it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage of a brownfield site should be developed. This has been made clear in the definitions of previously developed land set out in Planning Policy Guidance 3 (Housing – revised 2000), Planning Policy Statement 3 (Housing – 2003 as revised) and the National Planning Policy Framework (2012). The definition in Planning Policy Guidance 3 included a footnote which defined curtilage and stated that “where the footprint of a building only occupies a proportion of a site of which the remainder is open land (such as at an airfield or a hospital) the whole site should not normally be developed to the boundary of the curtilage. The local planning authority should make a judgement about site layout in this context, bearing in mind other planning considerations.” Although this detailed explanation of curtilage was not carried forward into Planning Policy Statement 3 the assumption in relation to developing the curtilage of previously developed land, including airfields, has remained the same and there has been no change to the policy relating to airfields in this respect.
Applications for the re-use or modernisation of airfields must be considered in the context of national policy. The National Planning Policy Framework, Planning Practice Guidance, the Aviation Policy Framework and the General Aviation Strategy acknowledge the significant contribution that aviation makes to economic growth across the country.
The National Planning Policy Framework encourages the effective use of land by re-using land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value. The Framework also makes clear that local plans should take account of the growth and role of airfields in serving business, leisure, training and emergency service needs. Applications for planning permission to re-develop airfields must be determined in accordance with Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans and the London Plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The National Planning Policy Framework is a material consideration in planning decisions.
The National Planning Policy Framework strongly encourages early and meaningful engagement and collaboration by local planning authorities with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area.
In March 2015, following the General Aviation Red Tape Challenge and the publication of the General Aviation Strategy, Planning Practice Guidance was strengthened to make clear that local authorities should consider the interconnectivity between airfields of different sizes and that they should have regard to the Aviation Policy Framework. The Aviation Policy Framework is clear that maintaining access to a national network of airfields is vital to the continuing success of the sector, and sets out Government policy to allow aviation to continue making a significant contribution to the economy.
In July 2015 the Government announced its intention to legislate to grant automatic permission in principle on brownfield sites identified in brownfield registers, subject to the approval of a limited number of technical details. The Government is taking this commitment forward in the Housing and Planning Bill. Decisions about the suitability of sites for inclusion in brownfield registers and the grant of permission in principle must be consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework. The Government intends to set out criteria to determine the suitability of sites for inclusion on the register in Regulations. We propose to consult on these criteria and the wider policy in due course.
We will work with the aviation sector to ensure the current policy relating to development on airfields is better understood.
Department for Communities and Local Government
Click this link to view the response online:
Airfields are under threat. Pilots and model flyers are urged to sign a petition on the UK Government Petition website to change the classification of airfields from ‘brownfield’ sites.
The link to the petition is here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106779
The petition has been started by Stephen Slater, shortly to become CEO of the Light Aircraft Association and also a leading light in the activities of the General Aviation Awareness Council (GAAC) which champions airfield protection.
GAAC says that in 2003 an ‘administrative oversight’ led to the deletion of planning protection from airfields being classified as brownfield sites. As a result, airfields are being closed by developers, breaking transport links and destroying significant areas of natural habitat within airfield boundaries.
The situation has been compounded by a proposal in the Chancellor’s summer budget to allow automatic planning permission to be granted for housing developments on designated brownfield sites.
If this goes unchallenged then many airfield and model flying sites across the UK could be re-developed into housing estates with little chance of saving them.
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