Steps to get the pilot’s license in Europe
The use of Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) has greatly grown in Europe and recently it has entered the civil market and hence opening a new chapter in the aviation history.
With its spontaneous growth, drones technologies are now carving a niche in the European aeronautical industry. As a result, the European commission has stepped in to develop a strategy to support the progressive growth of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).
The aviation community has endorsed this strategy while addressing concerns about safety, privacy, security and the public acceptance.
In line with this, it has now become a requirement to acquire a drone pilot license to operate them.
Until recently, there were no specific RPA licenses recognized as far as aviation law is concerned. However, the European aviation safety agency (EASA) has been tasked by the European Commission to develop guidelines on pilot licensing regulations and general rules for drone operation.
There are procedures and steps that guide the acquisition of drone pilot licenses in Europe based on the three categories established for their operation.
Open category (low risk)
For the open category, the regulations that govern the drone pilot license are minimal. This is because the operation requires constant visual contact with the drone, it’s important to also note that drones in this category usually have an operating mass of less than 25kg.
The licensing regulation as per EASA requires that a pilot in this category should have at least the basic understanding of the applicable regulations and specifically rules of the air regulation and air navigation order.
For instance, in the UK which is a member of the European Union, a pilot’s competency may be demonstrated by completing a course where an operator demonstrates the necessary skills and knowledge by passing both a ground exam and a flight test.
Specific category (medium risk)
In this category, it involves those drones which may pose a more significant aviation risk to human or share aviation space with manned aircraft.
Therefore drone pilot training is mandatory, qualified pilots are required to possess a remote operator certificate which contains details on how responsibilities are shared as well as having privileges to authorize the operation.
Safety risk assessment is required for this operation and mitigation steps are agreed with the aviation authorities prior to any operation.
Certified category (high risk)
This category involves large drones that can be used by the small or large organization for commercial operations.
The pilots of this category are required by law to obtain the license from the National Aviation Authority (NAA) and their operators must hold an ROC certificate as well as receive an organizational approval.
Drones in the certified category are in fact treated in a similar way just like manned aircraft and hence must be certified for airworthiness and as such certain restrictions may apply in their operation.
Type certificates are required which may deal with specific requirements such as airworthiness, noise level, its capabilities et cetera.
The EASA the European Union’s authority for aviation safety has constantly released the regulatory framework that would help in regulating the use of drones in its airspace.
The main objective of these regulations is to ensure that their operations are in line with the industry’s standards.