Drones regulation- Can I fly a drone in a city?

A frequent question we get at UASolutions is: "How can we fly a drone in a city legally under the new EU Drone Regulation?"
drone in a city

For smaller drones, there are four available options to do so depending on your constraints :

  1.  Open Category
  2. PDRA-S01 or STS-01
  3. SORA with mitigations M1 and/or M2
  4. SORA in SAIL III or IV

In this article we are going to detail those options and the drone regulations.

Can I fly a drone in a city – At a safe distance from people

If you are flying your drone in a city and urban environment and have the luxury to keep a larger distance from people either because it is a very empty neighborhood (e.g industrial site) or because you can afford to close a specific area to the public then you may be able to fly in the Open Category or according to the Standard Scenario STS-01 or the Predefined Risk Assessment S-01.

1. Open Category

 

In the open category, the heavier the UAS the higher the distances from people so if you are able to hold a 30 m minimum distance with your 1 kg UAS, you may be able to fly your drone in a city.

The distances are as follow:

WeightSubcategoryDistances from uninvolved people
250 gA1Overflight over uninvolved persons possible, but should be avoided.
900 gA1No overflight of third parties (no distance to be kept)
4 kgA2No overflight of third parties, minimum distance of 30 m (distance proportionate to the flight altitude, 1:1). The distance can be reduced to 5 m with a low speed mode (<3m/s).
25 kgA3No overflight of third parties, minimum distance of 30 m (1:1). Additionally a safe distance of 150 m from residential, recreational, commercial and industrial areas must be kept.

If you have a class marked and CE marked drone and you are able to keep the distance prescribed by the EU Reg. 2019/947,  then flying a drone in a city in the open category is a possibility.

2. PDRA-S01 or STS-01

 

If the distance of 150 m from residential, commercial and industrial areas seem too restrictive for you, you may be able to reduce this distance by using the STS-01 or the PDRA-S01. The standard scenario allows you to fly in a city with a C5 marked drone with following distances from third parties:

Max. Height AGLGround Risk Buffer distance with Maximum Take-Off Mass up to 10 kgGround Risk Buffer distance with Maximum Take-Off Mass greater than 10 kg
30 m10 m20 m
60 m15 m30 m
90 m20 m45 m
120 m25 m60 m
150 m30 m75 m

The PDRA-S01 will allow you to do the same while not having a C5 marked drone. It is important to note that standard scenarios and pre-defined risk assessments are flights in the specific category and therefore the efforts to fly according to those methods are already substantially higher than in the open category (development of an Operations Manual compliant with the regulation).

Can I fly a drone in a city – Overflight of people

If keeping distances from people is not for you. You have to overfly people to actually have a viable business case, then  you will have to fly in the specific category and deal with the Specific Operations Risk Assessment methodology (SORA).

3. SORA with mitigations M1 and/or M2


Using the SORA as a beginner, you may have two possible ground risk mitigations to lower your ground risk class in a city and so perform flights in a city at lower operational and technical costs in the specific category. If you would like to better understand the risk classes in the context of the specific category, you can order the ultimate SORA guide to determine your SAIL for free on our website.

The two possible ground risk mitigations will be:

  • M1: reducing the exposed people at risk by for instance proving that most people are inside buildings during the operation and so having appropriate sheltering in case of a crash.
  • M2: reducing the crash area or the lethality of the drone at impact by for instance showing a reduced kinetic energy upon impact (e.g. low weight drone or parachute)

4. SORA SAIL III & IV


If the M1 and M2 ground risk mitigations are not sufficient or if you cannot use such mitigations for your operations, you may want to perform the so called “specific category medium risk missions” (Specific Assurance and Integrity Levels III and IV).

 In this case and to fly a drone in a city, you may want to actively follow rulemaking and standardization efforts at EASA, JARUS and Eurocae level in order to better understand how you may fulfill such requirements.