Rules for marking drones in Europe

What can I do if I don’t have a class ID? Grace period until 31 December 2022. In the future, drones will be provided with a so-called class identification label, which certifies what technical conditions the given device meets. Depending on the class identification label (CIL) of the device, it determines in which subcategories the operations within the “open” category can be performed. A drone can have multiple CILs, so they can be used in either two or, in some cases, in all three subcategories.

However, neither standards nor notified conformity assessment bodies are currently available to carry out the process at the end of which the manufacturer affixes such an identifier to the device.

This situation was already foreseeable before the publication of Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 and the EU was aware that, at the time of entry into force of the legislation, unmanned devices with a class identifier that would be fully compliant with (EU) 2019/945 to the delegated regulation. In order not to make it impossible to use drones without CIL (ie currently all drones under 25 kg) in the open category, the legislation introduced a transitional grace period from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022. . During this period, it is possible to place drones without a class identifier on the market, specifically for operations in the “open” category, and it is possible to use them as described below.

The legislation specified the means and proven knowledge that can be used to perform an operation in the different subcategories of the “open” category during this period. In the case of devices, their maximum take-off weight determines where they can be used, while proven knowledge means an online exam certificate or a certificate of competency.

On this basis, in most European countries, drones without a class identifier can be operated in the “open” category during the transition period as follows:

In the case of a drone not exceeding 250 grams, the remote pilot may use the device in accordance with the operating conditions of subcategory A1.

If the long-distance pilot holds a long-distance pilot certificate of competency, he / she has the option of approaching non-participating people within 50 meters with equipment with a maximum take-off mass of less than two kilograms (this is also due to a limited subcategory A2 operation would be possible).

If the remote pilot holds an on-line examination certificate in accordance with UAS.OPEN.020, he / she may use equipment with a maximum take-off mass of less than 25 kilograms in accordance with subcategory A3 operating conditions.
It is important that these provisions only apply if the operation is to be carried out with operation within the “open” category. If an “advanced” category operation is carried out, an operating license must be obtained, during which the authority individually assesses the characteristics of the operation from the site, through the equipment to be used, to the competence of the remote pilot.

However, this grace period will only last until 31 December 2022. Thereafter, the facilitations described above will cease. This means that from 1 January 2023, in the case of drones specifically intended for use in the “open” category, only devices with a class identifier may be placed on the market, otherwise it can only be used in the “special” or “licensed” category, and its use is subject to obtaining an operating license.

However, if a drone without CIL was placed on the market before 1 January 2023 (which does not mean that it must be purchased by that date under EU law), such a drone can still be used without CIL in the open category, but use based on the maximum take-off mass of the drone (MTOM) will be limited to subcategories A1 and A3 for the “open” category only, as follows: if the MTOM of the device is less than 250 grams, it can also be used in subcategories A1 and A3, respectively if the MTOM of the device is at least 250 grams but less than 25 kg, it may only be used in subcategory A3.

This means that operation with a restricted subcategory A2 will no longer be possible with a drone with a take-off mass of 250 grams or more. Thus, to perform a subcategory A2 operation in the range of 250 grams to 4 kilograms, the user will definitely need a drone with a class ID of C2 or an operating license.

In addition to the CIL, the CE marking is mandatory for all drones placed on the EU market for use in the open category. This certifies that the product placed on the market has been inspected by the manufacturer – or distributor – and meets EU safety, health and environmental standards.

Only drones bearing the CE mark can be placed on the market in the European Union, regardless of where in the world they are manufactured. The marking is a hanger that must be placed on the equipment and its packaging. This CE logo is not the same as the “China Export” logo on Chinese export products, which is the same in shape and size, but has a much different meaning.

In addition, after the expiry of the transitional period mentioned above, there shall be another pictogram on the packaging of the device giving information on how loud the device is during use. To indicate this, a pictogram indicating the guaranteed sound power level is used, which gives the data expressed in numbers. The marking must be at least two centimeters high.

It is important that the CE marking is not only mandatory after the end of the transitional period, but is already mandatory (it has been mandatory until now, only on the basis of standards other than what the European Union expects from 1 January 2023).

The box of the device must contain a user manual in a language easily understood by users, or a copy of the so-called declaration of conformity or the simplified EU declaration of conformity.

If the markings or documents are incomplete, do not buy the device, as then its distribution does not comply with EU requirements and you, as a buyer, may be disadvantaged as a result, as the possibilities of use will be limited.

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