New Drone Rules from 1 July 2020 are Good News for all Dronies

From 1 July 2020, the European Union, and all other countries that are members of the European Aviation Safety Agency, which includes the UK, are introducing new rules about drones.

Please don’t worry that the new rules will compromise your ability to fly your drone where you want to, in the way you want to.

We have read a lot of scaremongering about the new rules “hurting drone flying”.  Rubbish!  The rules are entirely aimed at enabling people to fly drones more easily, in more places, with less red tape.

For the majority of Drone Enthusiasts, Everything Stays the Same

If you currently fly your drone for fun, well away from people, in the countryside, no more than 400ft from the ground and in line of sight, literally nothing changes.

The good news is that the new rules include changes that make things much better for dronies:

  • Buildings.  You no longer need to worry about buildings, even if they have people in them.  You can fly as close as you like, and directly over them.  Awesome
  • People.  If you have a lightweight drone, e.g. a DJI Mavic Mini or DJI Mavic Air, from 1 July 2020 you will be able to fly very close to, but not directly overhead, uninvolved people.  Great
  • Flying Commercially.  The headline is that from 1 July 2020, anyone will be able to earn money from flying a drone.  Without having to get any kind of qualification to do so.  There are some twists and turns on this one, especially around insurance, about which, more below.  But all the same, Epic!

Changes that make things a bit harder for dronies:

  • At the moment, the 50m rule creates a virtual dome over any uninvolved people, buildings, cars or boats. Climb to more than 50m above them, and you can fly straight over them
  • From 1 July 2020, for anyone who already owns a drone, (except Mavic Air and Mavic Mini owners, because these weigh less than 500grams), the 50m rule from people ceases to be a dome, and instead becomes a cylinder.  In other words, you must stay 50m horizontally away from uninvolved people
  • Unless you hold a PfCO, in which case the 50m dome continues to apply, including over congested areas.  This is the reason we urge you to renew their PfCO if you have one already, or get one before the end of June, if you don’t.

Drone Registration continues, and becomes harmonised across the European Union.  Which is good news for people travelling abroad in Europe with their drone

The New Rules are Good News

  • They are well thought out
  • They have been carefully planned, having been in the works since 2016
  • They will be the same across the whole of the EU and all other countries, including the UK, that tie themselves to the European Aviation Safety Agency
  • They more effectively reflect the relative riskiness of drones, which have turned out to be a very safe technology:
    • 3,552 people were killed in accidents at work across the EU in 2017
    • The highest number die in construction, often due to falling from height
    • To date, there have been no reports of fatalities caused by a DJI drone anywhere on Earth, in the last three years
    • Hence, replacing people working at height with drones, as much as possible, will save lives.

But we won’t lie to you.  There is quite a bit that is changing

A Summary of the Changes

In the past, now, and until 30 June 2020:

  • All drones under 7kgs have been treated the same
  • There has been a requirement for anyone using a drone commercially to hold a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO), which takes around 40 hours of study and costs around £1,000
  • Holders of a PfCO have been allowed to fly a drone commercially, and to fly over congested areas
  • Other than that, there has been just one set of rules for everyone

From 1 July 2020 there will be:

  • Different rules for different weights of drone
  • Different rules for existing drones and for new drones coming onto the market
  • Different rules during a two-year transition period
  • A different focus: entirely on flight near or over people
  • The powers that be have come to realise that in a battle between a drone and a building, the building is always going to win. So there are no restrictions on flying close to buildings in future
  • Different and additional qualifications (three levels): Registration; A2 Certificate of Competence; General Visual Line of Sight Certificate.

We have spent the last two months speaking to everyone in the sector, including:

  • The Bigwigs at the CAA
  • The Bosses of the two biggest commercial drone training organisations in the, UK 3iC and Fly Icarus.  Since you ask, we think we are at No. 5 in terms of commercial pilots trained, and, crucially, No. 1 in terms of the success rate for people securing their PfCO as a result of our Course (100% for more than 300 PfCO students over three years)
  • The Bosses of the two biggest drone insurance companies – a big shout out to our friends at Flock and Moonrock for their help
  • DJI’s Head of Policy, Europe
  • And with a cold towel wrapped round our heads, and often having to retreat to a darkened room to lie down to recover, we’ve read all of the papers published by EASA, and all of the “explanatory papers” (sometimes less than explanatory in our experience) published by the CAA.  500 pages and counting.

As a result of which, we think we have got to the bottom of what will happen on 1 July 2020.  We will be posting much more information about what is happening between now and then.  Please treat this as your trusted source.  Challenge us if you think we have missed something.  We believe we’ve got this right. We want to keep getting it right.

Health Warning:

  • We have sat back in sadness and dismay as we have had to watch too many people with too little knowledge publicly get the wrong end of the stick on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube, and on the Forums
  • We have watched dumbstruck as competitors have described the new rules as “complex”, “negative” and “much harder than the existing system”
  • None of this is true
  • The transition from a set of rules we had all grown familiar with, to new rules, will require us to drop our old mindset and adopt a new one.  But we are convinced this is the best thing that has happened to our sector, ever.  And that we will not have to “look back in anger”, but rather can look forwards with excitement to a brave new drone world.

47 thoughts on “New Drone Rules from 1 July 2020 are Good News for all Dronies

  1. Kel says:

    Thx Alan for explaining that it’s all rather confusing, no busy high streets for me. 😀

    Beach, boats, forests, mountains maybe some family selfie’s etc.. hopefully the mavic mini is all good for this.

  2. Kel says:

    Hi, ok so 249g can fly over congested areas and people? The Mavic mini take off mass is more, but I read in one of the comments that an update in April may have changed this?? Could you help explain thx.

    • Alan Proto says:

      Kel,
      Thanks for your question. Yes, it is correct that it will be possible to fly the DJI Mavic Mini over congested areas and uninvolved people – once the new regulations come into force on 1 January 2021. This is because the CAA have reclassified the definition of weight (I had never before realised there could be more than one definition of weight, but it turns out there can be) from “Maximum Take-off Mass” or MTOM, to “Flying Weight”. Flying weight being what it weighs when put on a set of scales. So a Mavic Mini withour prop guards or other attachments weighs less than 250gms, and so will qualify to be flown in the A1 Category.
      But please bear in mind you will still need to be able to show that the flight can be conducted safely. So no flying down the middle of busy high streets!
      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  3. Andrew Hayes says:

    Hi Guys, thanks so much for your great work helping us understand these upcoming changes.
    I am considering buying my first drone, a Mavic Air 2 but have been told by a dealer that because it is not certified, it will be a legacy drone and as such it’s use will be severely limited which has me thinking I have to wait until complying models are sold. Can you clarify whether I can buy now without penalty or should I wait?
    Thanks,
    Andrew

    • Alan Proto says:

      Andrew,
      Thanks for your question. I am sure a lot of people are asking themselves the same thing.
      It is true that the current crop of DJI Mavic Air 2s on the market are not “C Class Certified”. We expected them to be. But I think C-19 first caused issues with manufacturing in China, and then with certification in the EU. This is, we understand, why the EU, and the CAA, this week delayed the implementation of the new rules until 1 January 2021.
      So it is also correct that the Mavic Air 2 will drop into the A2 category until June 2022, and then into the A3 category after that. In practice, we see very litle difference between A2 and A3, so our advice is, don’t bother with the A2 CofC qualification, as in practice it gains you nothing (more on this in a future blog, I promise!).
      I guess the question then is, how big a deal is it, flying in the A3 Category? For us, it is no big deal. Currently, you must stay 50m away from other people, cars, boats and buildings. With that 50m being measured “as the crow flies”. Ie, you can overfly people, cars, buildings and boats, so long as you are 50m above them. From 1 Jan 2021, you will be able to fly as close to buildings, cars and boats as you like, so long as you are not endangering them. And you must stay 50m horizontally from “uninvolved” (ie unaware) people.
      Upshot is, you can fly your drone away from people, now, and in the future. Forever.
      There is certainly no reason to hold back from buying a Mavic Air 2. At the same time, if it were me, I would wait for the C Certificated Mavic Air to come along, as that will give you slightly better rights – providing you do the A2 CofC!

      [Conflict of Interest Warning: We are not big fans of the Mavic Air 2. We think the right choice for most people is the Mavic Mini or the Mavic 2 Pro. Hence we do not stock the Mavic Air 2]
      [Conflict of Interest Warning: We do not currently run the A2 CofC Course, as we are worried this may turn out to be a waste of money]

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  4. Mr Paul Williams says:

    Hello, I’m a photographer and have just acquired a mavic pro 2, it’s all registered but I don’t hold a licence, I’m unsure if I am able to legally sell my images as a friend of mine said that when the new rules come in this will be allowed without holding a licence?

    • Alan Proto says:

      Paul,
      Thanks for getting in touch. Unless you hold a PfCO, you are not able to sell images, or do any other kind of commercial work with your drone, for the time being. From 1 January 2021, the requirement to hold a PfCO in order to earn money with your drone falls away. So if you are in a hurry to make money with your drone, get the PfCO. Otherwise, wait until 1 January 2021, and then there will may be nothing stopping you……..

      Note that there are questions around insurance. You will need commercial insurance to fly a drone commercially. And we are unsure whether this will be available to non-PfCO Pilots.

      Note also that holding a PfCO means you will be able to fly a Mavic 2 Pro in a congested area. Without the PfCO this is and will remain impossible.

      Finally, note that most large clients are now up to speed with drones, and will not allow non-PfCO pilots onto their property. We work with: Mercedes-Benz; Weetabix, Tottenham F.C.; Bournemouth F.C; Cambridge University etc., and none of them will allos non PfCO pilots to fly for them.

      Hence we strongly advise anyone who is serious about making money with a drone to get the PfCO.

      [Conflict of Interest Warning: We run the PfCO Course monthly, on Zoom and face to face, observing social distancing rules]
      [Conflict of Interest Warning: We do not currently offer the A2 CofC, as we fear this may turn out to be a waste of money]

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  5. Stanimir Vasev says:

    Hi Alan,
    I hope you’re well.

    I currently purchased a Mavic Air 2 (European version) and have been flying in the UK. I have registered my drone as required but everywhere I hear people talking that I will be highly affected by the new rules and won’t be able to use my drone. I’ve read many forums and I’m still confused what’s going to happen to me in term of flying(purely for fun)?

    I’d really appreciate if you could explain it to me as I really want to know if it was a huge waste of money.

    Best regards,
    Stan

    • Alan Proto says:

      Stan,
      Thanks for your query. Our view is that the people doom-mongering on the forums are doing it to gain attention. After all, saying “everything will be fine” seldom feels newsworthy. The good news is that, everything will be fine :-).

      First of all, the CAA announced on 5 June 2020 that they are delaying the introduction of the “new rules” until 1 January 2021. So everything will remain the same until then.

      We have updated our blog post on this subject to reflect this. Take a look at our “before and after” for various different drones, including the Mavic Air 2, for all the details about what is changing, and what is not, on 1 January 2021.

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  6. Geoff F says:

    Hi I am just an amateur getting started, so I have two drones, one is truly less than 250g my son’s drone, more a toy with a poor camera (mjx x103w), so for this drone what are the rules? Sounds like I can take off from my garden without asking permission, but what about keeping away from other people? What are the distances involved? I’m assuming now even though it has a camera you can do this? Similar question for my 2nd drone is 520g , would I be able to fly it from my garden, park or bridleway? Do you not need permission of the owner of to fly over for instance farmland?

    • Alan Proto says:

      Hi there Geoff,

      Thanks for your enquiry. First of all, the CAA announced on 5 June 2020 that they are delaying the introduction of the “new rules” until 1 January 2021. So everything will remain the same until then.

      We have updated our blog post on this subject to reflect this. Take a look at our “before and after” for various different drones, including drones weighing less than 250gms, and for drones weighing only a little bit more than 500g, for all the details about what is changing, and what is not, on 1 January 2021.

      One important thing to understand – when it comes to flying over open land, eg farm land, you do not need anyone’s permission to do so. Can you imagine if every hot air balloonist / glider pilot / microlighter or light aircraft owner had to ask for permission to fly over a field? The Drone Code sets out the distances you must stay away from people and buildings that you haven’t got permission from (the legal jargon is “not under your control” and / or “uninvolved”), and these are set out in law in the Air Navigation Order.

      Once again, note that these separation distances will change on 1 January 2021. But the ability to fly over open countryside without permission will continue.

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  7. Haris F says:

    I’ve recently bought a Mavic Air 2 which seems as though it will take the ‘Legacy’ class after 2022. I’m thinking of returning it to possibly purchase a C1 class drone when they’re released.

    Do you think we might see any C0 or C1 class drones before June 2022, or will the classification only apply to drones sold beyond that point?

    Cheers.

    • Alan Proto says:

      Thank you for your enquiry,

      I am confident that we will see C1 and C2 drones before long. Certainly before June 2022. I am not certain there is anything to be gained from owning a C0 drone, as the Mavic Mini that is already on the market now meets all of the requirements to fly in the A1 Subcategory.

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  8. Martin Hayles says:

    I am still scratching my head regarding PL insurance, the CAA state they are looking at drone insurance as the (EC) 785/2004 was never meant for drones, and also that the commercial category this PL sat under will no longer exist by Nov 1st. If commercial licensing will no longer exist, then why does commercial insurance? I have read comments from the CAA and UK govt stating that commercial insurance needs to be reviewed and may or may not be a legal requirement – of course none of this helps at the moment especially as they have been delayed to November at the earliest – do you have a take on commercial insurance now and also in November? neither the UK govt or CAA have issued updated (post nov 1) guidance for insurance.

    • Alan Proto says:

      Martin,

      We are with you completely on this one. The bosses of three of the largest UK drone insurance providers are similarly perplexed.

      My best guess is that:
      – the CAA will unilaterally step away from (EC) 785/2004, which is something they now have the power to do
      – So commercial operations will no longer require the operator to hold commercial insurance
      – We still strongly recommend that all pilots carry PL insurance. See our blog post “Knowledge is Power” for more information
      – To fly in the Specific Category, under your PfCO or GVC, there will remain a requirement to have commercial drone insurance.

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  9. Paul says:

    Hi. Could you explain the first picture? As it does say a mavic mini weight 268g (how that’s possible maybe with guards) anyway as a owner of mini I can’t fly over people? But as a owner of mavic 2 pro I can? Or I don’t understand something 🙂
    Looking to hear from you

    • Alan Proto says:

      Paul,

      Thank you for your enquiry. We have updated the blog post in the light of recent developments. I hope the new version is clearer for you. Please take a look.

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  10. Myles says:

    Hi Alan,

    I currently own a Mavic Mini, and will register it ahead of November in order to comply to the new rules.

    With these new rules, will I be able to use my Mavic Mini for commercial purposes without a PfCO and without prop guards to remain under 250g from November?

    WilI be able to fly it anywhere, and just pay for commercial drone insurance instead?

    You mentioned in a comment to register the drone in France in order to fly in all EU countries – should I register in both U.K. and France as a UK resident or do I just register it in France even though I live in the U.K. and intend to use the drone when travelling – will that affect how I can use it in the U.K. if I register it in France only?

    Best wishes,

    Myles

    • Alan Proto says:

      Myles,

      Thank you for these great questions!

      Please note that the registration requirement for the Mavic Mini has been pushed back to 1 January 2021. We have updated our blog post to reflect this.

      You are correct that you will be able to use your Mavic Mini for commercial operations, without any need to hold a PfCO. The issues around commercial drone insurance for non-PfCO holders remains unclear. See our reply to another comment for more information.

      Because the UK has left the EU, you will need to register your drone both in the UK and in the EU, in order to use your drone in the UK, and in France (and all other EU countries). Registration in France is free, the test is in English, and the questions are similar to those in the UK.

      Hope this helps
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  11. Mark says:

    I read on a different website that in order to use the mavic mini in the A1 class you would still need to pay for an A2 class certification?

    • Alan Proto says:

      Mark,

      Thank you for your enquiry. It WAS the case that to fly in the A1 Category, you needed the snappily titled “A2 Certificate of Competence”.

      BUT the CAA changed the goalposts, hugely in our favour, at the end of April. Changing the definition of “weight” (I know, how can there be different definitions of weight! But there are) from Maximum Take-Off Mass, to Flying Weight.

      This means that the Mavic Mini now qualifies to be flown in the A1 Category, including flight over people, with no obligation on the pilot other than registration and reading the User Manual.

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  12. Arch Stanton says:

    As a mini Mavic owner I am reading that from 1st November when registered I will be able to fly over my home town as long as take off weight is 249g as although small I would class as congested

    • Alan Proto says:

      Arch,

      You are absolutely right. The new rules will enable anyone with a drone with a Flying Weight of less than 250gms to fly near and over buildings, including in a congested area. Good news for all drone pilots!

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  13. Deborah Akkurt says:

    I’ve read and been told some conflicting info. When new rules come in what will be the restrictions on flying over built up/congested areas ?

    • Alan Proto says:

      Deborah,

      Thank you for your question. You are not alone in finding it difficult to see the wood for the trees with the new regulations. We have updated our blog post to try to make things clearer. Take a look.

      All the best
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  14. Carl Bishop says:

    My pfco expires end of June but it makes sense for me to acquire the A2 CofC. But that leaves me with a gap of 4 months! How can I fly legally during this time without the work and cost of renewing my pfco?

    • Alan Proto says:

      Carl,

      Our advice to all of the 500 PfCO qualified pilots is “please, please, renew your PfCO”. There are certain unique benefits of holding a PfCO that will never be available again once the new regulations are introduced. Especially, the ability to overfly uninvolved people, and congested areas, so long as you stay 50m above the people and the rooftops, with any size and weight of drone (up to 20kgs). No-one except a PfCO holder will be able to do this in future.

      Please renew!

      All the best
      Alan

  15. Paul Adams says:

    Hello, I am a complete novice who would like to try my hand at a drone and have been looking at the Mavic Mini. Am I correct in my understanding that as of 1/7 I will need to register this and do the online test?. Also is insurance a legal requirement?
    Thank you and regards
    Paul

    • Alan Proto says:

      Paul,

      Thank you for your question.

      Please note that the date for the introduction of the new regulations was pushed back on 5 June 2020 to 1 January 2021. By that date, yes, you will need to register your drone and pass the online test. Don’t worry, it is not a hard test!

      Insurance is not a legal requirement, but we strongly recommend it. Check out our post “Knowledge is Power” and scroll to the bottom to see our insurance recommendations.

      Hope that helps!
      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  16. Lori says:

    Hello,
    This is pretty clear so thank you for this but I do have a question: I’ve ordered my DJI Mavic Air 2 and I live quite near to main attractions like Big Ben, can I fly around central London with Mavic air 2?

    • Alan Proto says:

      Lori,

      You cannot fly around Central London with any drone, without jumping through a lot of long-winded and expensive hoops. Specifically, you would need to hold a PfCO (£1,000, five days work) and an Operating Safety Case (£10,000, many months of work). And we think that is probably a good thing.

      There is a specific model flying area at Richmond Park where you can fly your drone. Or you will need to get out of Central London.

      The PhantomFlightSchool Team

  17. Ian says:

    Good evening, I will be using a drone to inspect roofs and chimneys ( i am a surveyor), I only have a play about drone at the moment to get used to it, will I be able to get close to properties that I am inspecting without a pfco in November? I would not intentionally fly over a neighbours house but would try to keep it over the subject property. Thank you

  18. Andy Barratt says:

    I’ve only just heard the news that these rules will no longer come into affect until November. Could this article be updated to reflect that as it is the top hit when searching for new drone rules 2020 and if I hadn’t checked the comment section I wouldn’t have realised that I’d be breaking the rules in July 🙂

  19. Joey says:

    Hey Alan – awesome write-up, really well written and informative. So basically I’m looking to get myself a DJI Spark and start a one-man freelance drone business this year. Am I right in saying that the only cost with these new rules will be to get it properly insured? Or is there a cost for registering with the EU? Thanks!

    • Alan Proto says:

      Hi there Joey, You will need to register your drone. To fly in the UK, this will be with the CAA, and will cost you £9. To fly in the EU, you will need to register in an EU Country. We recommend registering in France. Registering your drone there is free, the test is in English, and you will be familiar with the questions from the UK test. All the best, Alan

  20. Nick says:

    So …. I’m confused. As a PfCO holder it will be grandfathered and can be renewed every year… Is there now a limit on LEGACY drones that don’t hold a CE mark?

    or will i have all the same rights under the PfCO with a inspire for example?

    • Alan Proto says:

      Hi there Nick, As the holder of a PfCO, you are able to fly in the Specific Category. Which allows you to fly under your current PfCO rules with any drone weighing less than 7kg. Which is why we love the PfCO! All the best, Alan

  21. Rob Andrews says:

    Hi there, great read and very to the point which is appreciated in these confusing times! As a new mavic mini owner who is just using it for fun, but looking to use it for a local estate agent in the summer, am I best waiting until after 1st July to avoid Pfco costs? Obviously still need to be insured. Thanks, Rob

    • Alan Proto says:

      Dear Rob, Thanks for your comment. One thing to note though, the introduction date for the new rules has now been pushed back to 1 November. So you won’t be able to conduct commercial operations with your drone, unless you have a PfCO, until after that date. Sorry! You will also have to obtain commercial drone insurance once you start using your drone commercially. All the best, Alan

    • Alan Proto says:

      Good morning Keith,
      That is correct. Due to the impact of the Coronavirus, the CAA has postponed the introduction of the new rules until 1 November 2020.
      All the best,
      Alan

  22. Michael Oram says:

    hi i am about to buy a DJI Mavic Mini does this come under the CO class.
    I am told that I do not need to register the drone as it it 249g.
    Does the Mavic Mini weight more then I am told.
    Your help would be appreciated.
    Thanks Mike

    • Alan Proto says:

      Good morning Michael,
      The Mavic Mini isn’t a C0 drone, as it doesn’t have this “Stamp” from the EU on it. But you can fly it in the A1 Category, which means you can fly just about anywhere with this drone, forever!
      You don’t need to register it at the moment. But that will change on 1 November, assuming we adopt the new EU/UAS rules. At that point, any drone with a camera, no matter what it weighs, will need to be registered.
      Hope this helps
      All the best
      Alan

  23. Alistair Barclay says:

    I am still trying to fully understand what ,as a current recreational only user, I can and cannot do with a Inspire 1 after the first of July, ( if by then we are out of lockdown)

    • Alan Proto says:

      Good morning Alistair,
      Essentially, it is reasonably straight-forward. With your Inspire 1, you will need to stay 50m horizontally from “uninvolved” people (ie people you haven’t spoken to and got permission from), and 150m horizontally from congested areas.
      All the best
      Alan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *