Table of Contents
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) such as drones have become an integral part of our society. They are used by children, by general consumers as well as by professionals for various purposes: during play, as a leisure activity for filming or taking pictures, for surveillance purposes, inspections, etc.
UAS entail risks, both for the user and for bystanders. In order to keep the risks associated with UAS acceptable, Europe has drawn up specific regulations.
What Is the Difference Between an Unmanned Aircraft (UA) and an Unmanned Aircraft System?
An unmanned aircraft (UA) is any aircraft operating or designed to operate autonomously or to be piloted remotely without a pilot on board
An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is an unmanned aircraft and the equipment to control it remotely.
Regulations Applicable to Low-risk Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Since 2018, basic European legislation is in place with common rules for civil aviation: Regulation (EU) 2018/1139.
Two new Regulations have originated from this basic Regulation:
- Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 of 12 March 2019 lays down requirements for the design, manufacture and marketing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The FPS Economy is responsible for Chapter II. This Regulation has been applicable since 1 July 2019 for UAS bearing a UA class identification label.
- Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 of 24 May 2019: contains rules and procedures for operating flights with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The FPS Mobility is responsible for this. This Regulation has been applicable since 1 January 2021, but the transition period for the open category will run until 1 January 1 2023 and for classes C5-C6 until 3 December 2023.
For toy drones, in addition to Regulation 2019/945, the Royal Decree of 19 January 2011 on the safety of toys is still applicable. More information can be found on our webpage Safety of toys.
For all other UAS, Regulation 2019/945 replaces the Royal Decree of 12 August 2008 concerning the placing of machinery for all aspects related to flight safety on the market. Only for functions different from flight, the Royal Decree on machinery does apply (for example, pesticide spraying). More information can be found on our webpage Safety of machines.
Drones usually operate via wireless communication. Therefore, all drones must comply with the law of 13 June 2005 on electronic communication (in particular art. 32) and the Royal Decree of 25 March 2016 on the making available on the market of radio equipment. That legislation falls within the competence of the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications). You will find more information on this legislation on the BIPT webpage Obligations of economic operators.
To Which Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Does Regulation 2019/945 Apply?
- Chapter II of the Regulation applies to the following products:
- UAS intended to be operated under the rules and conditions applicable to the ‘open’ category of UAS operations or to operational declarations under the ‘specific’ category of UAS operations pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2019/947, (except privately built UAS) and bearing a class identification label as set out in Parts 1 to 5, 16 and 17 of the Annex to the Regulation indicating to which of the seven UAS classes referred to in Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 it belongs (as provided in the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947);
- class C5 accessories kits as set out in Part 16 of the Annex to the Regulation;
- remote identification add-ons as set out in Part 6 of the Annex to the Regulation.
- Chapter III of the Regulation applies to UAS operated under the rules and conditions applicable to the ‘certified’ and ‘specific’ categories of UAS operations pursuant to Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 except when conducted under a declaration.
- Chapter IV of this Regulation applies to UAS operators that have their principal place of business, are established, or reside in a third country, if the UAS are operated in the European Union. This falls within the competence of the FPS Mobility.
- This Regulation does not apply to UAS intended to be exclusively operated indoors.
What Is Meant by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) of the Open Category?
UAS flight operations are classified in the ‘open’ category only if the following conditions are met:
- the UAS belongs to one of the classes specified in Regulation 2019/945 or is privately built or meets the conditions set out in Article 20 (of Regulation 2019/947);
- the unmanned aircraft has a maximum take-off mass of less than 25 kg;
- the remote pilot keeps the unmanned aircraft in view at all times (except when flying in “follow-me mode” or when using an observer);
- during flight, the unmanned aircraft is always held 120 meters above the point over which it is currently flying, except when overflying an obstacle;
- during the flight, the unmanned aircraft does not carry any dangerous goods or drop any material.
The UAS that do not belong to the open category fall under the specific or certified category. This falls under the competence of the FPS Mobility.
What Are the Obligations of UAS Manufacturers Under Regulation 2019/945?
A manufacturer is a natural or legal person:
- who manufactures a product OR,
- has a product designed or manufactured, and markets that product under their name or trademark.
As a manufacturer, you must ensure that the product you place on the market has been designed and manufactured in accordance with the requirements of Parts 1 to 6, 16 and 17 of the Annex.
You must draw up the technical documentation and carry out the relevant conformity assessment procedure or have it outsourced, before placing the product on the market.
Furthermore, all products you place on the market must be traceable. You do this by affixing the type and a unique serial number, which is also included in the EU declaration of conformity that accompanies the product (or a simplified version). In addition, you put your name, registered trade name or registered trademark, website and postal address on the product as well as a CE mark.
The products must also be accompanied by the instructions and the information notice in the language(s) of the language area where you place the products on the market.
When manufacturers place a class C5 or C6 UAS or accessories for class C5 on the market, manufacturers shall inform the market surveillance authorities of the Member State where their principal place of business is located.
The Obligations of an Authorised Representative for UAS Under Regulation 2019/945
A UAS manufacturer may, by a written mandate, appoint an authorised representative for the EU. However, the compliance of the product with the technical requirements and the drawing up of the technical documentation are not part of that mandate.
The mandate shall allow the authorised representative to perform the following tasks:
- keep the EU declaration of conformity and the technical documentation at the disposal of national market surveillance authorities for 10 years after the product has been placed on the EU market;
- further to a reasoned request from a market surveillance or border control authority, provide that authority with all the information and documentation necessary to demonstrate the conformity of the product;
- cooperate with the market surveillance or border control authorities, at their request, on any action taken to eliminate the non-conformity of the products covered by the authorised representative's mandate or the safety risks posed by it.
The Obligations of Importers of UAS Under Regulation 2019/945
Before making a UAS available on the market, an importer must ensure that the manufacturer has carried out the conformity assessment procedure. The importer ensures that:
- the manufacturer has drawn up the technical documentation;
- the product bears the CE marking and, where required, the UA class identification label and the indication of the sound power level;
- the products are accompanied by the required documents and that the products are traceable (both the product and the manufacturer)
Furthermore, importers shall:
- indicate their name, registered trade name or registered trademark, website and the postal address on the products or, if that is not possible, on their packaging or in a document accompanying the product.
- ensure that the product is accompanied by the instructions and information notice in the language(s) of the language area where they place the product on the market.
- ensure storage and transport conditions that do not jeopardise the conformity of the product.
- keep a copy of the EU declaration of conformity at the disposal of the market surveillance authorities for 10 years after the product has been placed on the market and ensure that the technical documentation can be made available to those authorities, upon request.
- provide, upon request of a competent national authority, all information and documentation necessary to demonstrate the conformity of the product, in a language which can be easily understood by that authority. Upon request of the authority, they follow up on all measures taken to eliminate the risks posed by the product which they have placed on the market.
The Obligations of Distributors of UAS Under Regulation 2019/945
Before making UAS available on the market, distributors shall verify that
- they bear the CE marking and, when applicable, the UA class identification label and the indication of the sound power level;
- they are accompanied by the required documents and instructions and other information in the language of the language area where the UAS are made available on the market;
- they meet the traceability requirements (both in terms of the product, manufacturer and importer)
In addition, distributors shall:
- ensure that the storage and transport conditions do not jeopardise the conformity of the product;
- provide, upon request of a competent national authority, all information and documentation, in paper or electronic form, necessary to demonstrate the conformity of the product, Upon request of this authority, they follow up on all measures taken to eliminate the risks posed by the product which they have placed on the market.
Markings and Documents for UAS Under Regulation 2019/945
A drone shall always bear the following markings:
- the CE marking must be affixed to the UAS or to the data plate on the UAS. If this is not possible, it can also be affixed to the packaging. When the conformity assessment has been carried out according to module H (see below), the CE marking must be followed by the identification number of the notified body;
- the type: on the UAS;
- a unique serial number to identify the UAS: on the UAS;
- the UA-Class (0 to 6): on the UAS (or on any part of an accessory kit of class C5) and on the packaging, and at least 5 mm high (see parts 1-5, 16 and 17 of the annex in Regulation 2019/945);
- the sound power level, if applicable;
- the name, registered trade name or trademark, website and postal address of the manufacturer and importer (if the manufacturer is established outside the EU): on the UAS or, if this is not possible, on the packaging or an accompanying document.
A drone shall be accompanied by different documents:
- the EU conformity declaration: a copy accompanying the product, this may also be a simplified version provided that contains the correct internet address where the full text of the EU declaration of conformity can be found (parts 11 and 12 of the annex of the Regulation 2019 /945);
- the required manual: parts 1-6 of the annex to Regulation 2019/945;
- the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) information notice, specifying the limitations and obligations, published by EASA in accordance with Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 with appropriate limitations and obligations.
Conformity Assessment Procedures for UAS Under Regulation 2019/945
It is necessary to ensure that UAS meet the requirements of the Regulation if they are intended to be operated in the 'open' category. The manufacturer must apply the appropriate conformity assessment procedure.
Different conformity assessment procedures are possible:
- Internal production control (Module A, part 7 of the Annex of Regulation 2019/945):
- use of harmonised standards;
- the manufacturer ensures that every manufactured product meets the requirements;
- EU declaration of conformity;
- EU-type examination + conformity to type based on internal production control (modules B + C, part 8 of the Annex of Regulation 2019/945):
- EU-type examination by the notified body (module B);
- Conformity to type (module C) by the manufacturer;
- Conformity based on full quality assurance (module H, part 9 of the annex of Regulation 2019/945):
- Quality system assessed by the notified body;
- Application of the quality system by the manufacturer.
-> this procedure is not allowed for toy drones