The ‘certified’ category of drone operations includes those with the highest level of risk. For example, future drone flights with passengers on board, such as air taxis, will fall into this category. The approach to ensure these flights’ safety will be very similar to the one used for manned aviation.
For this reason, these aircraft will need a certification (type certificate and certificate of airworthiness). Also, the pilot will need to hold a pilot license, and the operator will need approval from the competent authority.
Within the certified category, we find the following:
- Operations of UAS intended to be used to transport people.
- Operations with UAS with a characteristic dimension of 3 or more meters certified by EASA to fly over gatherings of people.
- Operations of UAS intended for the transport of dangerous goods which may present a risk to third parties in case of an accident.
- UAS intended to fly in operations with ground risk class (GRC) of 8 or higher in the SORA analysis or operations with a SAIL level V and VI.
EASA decided to conduct this activity in multiple phases and to address first the following three types of operation:
Operations type #1:
The international flight of certified cargo drones conducted in instrumental flight rule (IFR) in airspace classes A-C and taking-off and landing at aerodromes under EASA’s scope. For example, an unmanned A320 transporting cargo from Paris to New York.
Operations type #2:
Drone operations in urban or rural environments using pre-defined routes in airspaces where U-space services are provided. This includes operations of unmanned drones carrying passengers or cargo. For example, air-taxi or package delivery services come directly to your balcony, the roof of your building, or your front yard.
Operations type #3:
Operations as in type #2 but conducted with an aircraft with a pilot on board. This is expected to cover the first type of air taxi operations, where the pilot will be on board. In a second phase, the aircraft will become remotely piloted (operations type 2)
One of the most difficult things of the certified category operations is the development of the regulation by EASA because of the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in the U-space and the creation of new certification specifications that will collect information from almost all others.
In 2021, EASA published the EU Regulation 2021/664, which lays the basis for the certified category and aims to help companies prepare for future operations in the U-space. UAS operators in this category will need support from Air Navigation Service Providers and U-space service providers. EASA will fix regulations of vertiports, setting operational requirements for takeoff and landing.
More legal framework is still in development and should be ready by the end of 2025, when the first real flights are expected to taking-off.
Several companies have already developed drones that fall under the certified category; some of these have created air taxis of different kinds that are still under development. Others are working on drones to be used to carry dangerous goods such as explosives or chemical substances.
Alter Technology, with more than 35 years in the aerospace sector, is the First Notified Body for EU Drone Regulation 2019/945 for drones in the open category (Classes C0 to C4) and is waiting on standardized norms drafts to be released to get accredited for classes C5 and C6.
Alter Technology experts stay up to date in drone regulations and are currently working alongside major drone manufacturers worldwide to provide the certification which allows them to place their products in the European market with CE marking and Class Label.