Decoding the New European Drone Regulations and DJI Product Compliance

A closer look on the impact of new EU drone rules on DJI Enterprise customers and what it really means for their business

By Erick Razon Erick Razon
November 13, 2020

As of December 31, 2020, the new European Drone Regulations laid out by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will come into force, paving the way for an era of harmonization across the 27 EU Member States as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK.

If on the one hand this step represents an unprecedented milestone to “address societal concerns on the drone technology,” as EASA explains in its news releases, it may also raise questions about potential disruptions for individual operators and companies using DJI products.

At a practical level, DJI has addressed in a recent webinar some of the implications of a harmonized regulation for customers, and EASA has released a detailed FAQ on the Open and Specific category as well as a regulatory framework timeline.

webinar on EASA

However, there may still be uncertainties when it comes to the current state of DJI drones’ compliance and the clear benefit of a standardized solution against existing frameworks, that we will try to address in this article.

DJI Products Compliance with the new European Drone Regulations

One of the most natural responses to change is fear. It would be understandable if DJI enterprise customers, particularly within critical sectors such as Public Safety, Energy, and AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction), were concerned about meeting new requisites in a timely manner to continue to operate unobstructedly.

In the past few years, as drone technology under DJI’s leadership continued to advance well ahead of existing regulations, our European policy team has been working closely with European policymakers in an ongoing process of informing, updating and educating on educating on the increasing advantage and safety of drone technology.

"Striking a balance between the need to harmonize regulation of the safe use of drone technology and allowing our customers to benefit freely from its growing potential has always been of paramount importance for DJI in Europe," says Christian Struwe, DJI's Director of Public Policy, EMEA.Christian Struwe decoding EASA 

 

 

The direct result of this cooperative approach between DJI as a market leader and EASA means that operators using DJI drones today can still fly as of January 2021 as products are already compliant with the new European Drone Regulations.

 

 

Similarly, by virtue of this continuous dialogue with European policymakers, DJI is committed to handle all possible uncertainties and customers’ enquiries that may be arising from the implementation of the new rules with a dedicated R&D team.

Streamlining Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) Processes

It is not without reason that all drone enterprise operators worry about the possibility of having to adjust to new authorization processes for critical operations, as it could be the case for Sweden where regulations have been generally less strict than anywhere else. However, this does not necessarily mean that a new process purports to be more complex; what it does mean is that it will be streamlined.

In fact, in the absence of an official harmonized process it has been more difficult for us at DJI to offer official harmonized solutions to customers enquiries. Reaching a common ground on SORA processes is a much sought-after achievement that finally allows to streamline non-homogeneous processes to obtain flying permits and operations approvals in similar scenarios across different countries.

Flying DJI Drones without CE Class Identification Labels 

Clarity is power. A generalized confusion between CE markings, for which DJI products are already compliant, and the newly required CE class identification labels, which refer to the class in which a drone can be flown in the Open Category, may inhibit enterprise customers to continue to operate as usual in 2021.

This particular issue has been clearly addressed by EASA in reference to article 22 of EU regulation 2019/947, where it is clear that there is a transition period for drones without CE class identification labels to continue to be flown in the Open Limited Category.

Furthermore, DJI’s products tick all the boxes in terms of compliance, including relevant or applicable EU CE directives, meaning that they will not require extensive interventions such as product modifications.

Tangible Benefits of Drone Rules Harmonization for DJI customers

There is always an opportunity behind the challenge, and in this case, a standardized EU drone regulation opens new possibilities for DJI customers considering expansion plans across the continent.

For businesses, not only does this mean that DJI drones are fit to fly as of January 2021 but more importantly, they can scale their local operations seamlessly to other countries in similar scenarios without having to necessarily undergo new registration processes, training and multiple authorizations. 

This is especially true as beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) routine flights become the norm in standard scenarios where before they were the exception. Even more so, as the distinction between hobbyists and commercial operators evaporates under the new rules – hence, allowing more business operations such as wind turbine inspections to be performed in the Open Category without approval.

The time is now. DJI is committed to help its customers think big and scale their business beyond borders. If you are considering to start or scale your drone program within your organization, download our playbooks: 

 

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The introduction of a harmonized drone regulation in Europe is a momentous achievement for the entire industry.

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FAQ

Q: What is CE marking all about?

Forthcoming EU regulation requires that drones obtain new CE class identification marking based on different mandatory safety requirements in addition to existing CE marking requirements. New European standards in compliance with the new regulation are under development with active involvement of DJI but have not been finalised yet.

The new EU regulation distinguishes between three different categories: low risk (OPEN CATEGORY), increased risk (SPECIFIC CATEGORY) and high risk (CERTIFIED CATEGORY) DJI consumer products are primarily used in the OPEN CATEGORY (low risk flights) in which CE class identification labelling of one of the related classes C0-C4 is mandatory.

Each product without a CE class label can still be used in the limited open category in accordance with the new EU regulation. This particular issue has been clearly addressed by EASA where it is clear that there is a transition period for drones without CE class identification labels to continue to be flown in the so called "limited" Open Category (https://www.easa.europa.eu/faq/116508).  We do encourage users to assess in which category their drone and intended flight belongs and follow associated rules and regulations. 

Q: When do the new CE marking rules come into force?

On 31 December 2020. 

Q: What happens if you do not have a CE class identification label after 31 December 2020?

Any products without CE marking can still be used in the OPEN CATEGORY until 31 December 2022 but with some operational limitations (see details in the spreadsheet below). They can also be used in the OPEN CATEGORY  after the transition period (2022 onwards, but only in the most restricted category A3). 

More information on how drones without CE class identification labels are able to continue to be flown in the Open Limited Category can be found on the EASA FAQ: https://www.easa.europa.eu/faq/116508 .

Q: How will DJI apply this new regulatory framework to its existing and new products?

These standards are not yet ready but under development with active involvement of DJI. Once these standards are ready, we will be working on assuring compliance for relevant products accordingly.

Q: How will DJI know whether its products are compliant with the new regulatory framework?

For pre-evaluation of what needs to be done from our side, we are working with TÜV Rheinland, which is a Technical Inspection Association that provides product certification services for many different industrial applications.

They have not been confirmed as a so-called "notified body" for final CE marking, and we still have to decide which notified body to use.

Q: Can current drones get retroactive CE class identification labels?

Although current drones on the market cannot simply be retroactively marked, they can go through a process that will verify they are compliant with the new requirements and will transform it legally to a ‘new’ product.  We are assessing this possibility for existing products. All DJI drones can be used in the “limited” Open Category with certain restrictions until 31st December, 2022 and beyond.

More information on how drones without CE class identification labels are able to continue to be flown in the Open Limited Category can be found on the EASA FAQ: https://www.easa.europa.eu/faq/116508 

DJI is currently working with industry bodies, regulators and authorities, to help shape the European standards the CE marking is based on and the compliance process for this regulation.

Q: How do I know whether my drone will be able to get a CE class identification label retroactively?

Once the standards have been confirmed by the regulatory authorities and notified bodies are in place, we will publish a list on our website that shows which products will be included in retroactive CE class identification labelling.

Q: How will I be able to get a CE label retroactively for my drone?

For confirmed products, this will require a hardware and/or firmware upgrade (still to be decided!) which will have to be performed by DJI or certain authorised dealers. Customers may do this upgrade themselves but the manufacturer needs to set up a controlled process with a verification through a notified body (still to be decided!). 

Q: Can I still use my drone if it cannot get a CE class identification label retroactively?

There is a transition period planned. Any products without CE class identification label can still be used until 31 December 2022 but with some operational limitations (see details in the spreadsheet below). They can also be used after the transition period (2022 onwards, but only in the most restricted category A3).

More information on how drones without CE class identification labels are able to continue to be flown in the Open Limited Category can be found on the EASA FAQ: https://www.easa.europa.eu/faq/116508.

Q: Does my drone need to have a CE class identification label in order to operate commercially?

The new EU regulation does not distinguish between private and commercial drone usage in the open category. Drones without CE class identification labels can still be used commercially until 31st December 2022 but with some operational limitations (see details in the spreadsheet below). They can also be used after the transition period (2022 onwards, but only in the most restricted category A3).

More information on how drones without CE class identification labels are able to continue to be flown in the Open Limited Category can be found on the EASA FAQ: https://www.easa.europa.eu/faq/116508.

Q: How do I know whether the drones I have in stock will be able to get a CE class identification label retroactively?

Once the standards have been confirmed by the regulatory authorities and the notified bodies are in place, we will inform you which products will be included in retroactive CE class identification labelling.

Q: How will I be able to get a CE class identification label retroactively for the drones I have in stock?

For the confirmed products, this will require a hardware and/or firmware upgrade (still to be decided!) which will have to be performed by DJI or authorised dealers. Customers may do this upgrade themselves but the manufacturer needs to set up a controlled process with a verification through a notified body (still to be decided!). We will inform you in due course how this process will work in practice.

Q: Will I not be able to sell any drones I have in stock that do not have CE class identification labels?

Every DJI drone on the market already complies to the existing EU CE Marking directives and therefore can be sold on the EU market under the new EU regulation even after 31st December 2022 in general. For consumer drones where the new Class identification labels apply there is a transition period planned. DJI Consumer drones without CE class identification label can still sold on the EU market until 31 December 2022 on the consumer market but with some operational limitations (see details in the spreadsheet below). However, these are minor and should not prevent a customer from buying these products.

More information on how drones without CE class identification labels are able to continue to be flown in the Open Limited Category can be found on the EASA FAQ: https://www.easa.europa.eu/faq/116508.

 

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Erick Razon
About the Author Erick Razon

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