The UK adopted the EU regulations for unmanned aircraft (which included model flying) in 2019 and these will come into effect on December 31st, 2020. This is the same day that we exit from the EU, but regulations in place at the point of departure will be transferred directly into UK law.
Some requirements of the EU regulations were already in place (such as a height limits, Operator Registration and Competency requirements) following changes to the Air Navigation Order set out in 2018, but the EU regulations introduce further changes. Full details of the regulations for the operation of unmanned aircraft (which includes model aircraft) can be found in CAP 722 (http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP722%20Edition8(p).pdf).
However, given the excellent safety record established by model flyers throughout Europe, the EU agreed that model flying conducted within the framework of Associations like the BMFA should be subject to more flexible regulation to allow us to continue largely ‘as we do today’. The mechanism to facilitate this is referred to as an ‘Article 16 Authorisation’ (within the ‘Specific Category’) and we are now in possession of our Authorisation from the CAA, which sets out the regulations which will apply to our members with effect from December 31st, 2020. Our Authorisation essentially permits us to continue operating largely as we do today.
The new EU regulations allow for alternative sets of rules to be applied to unmanned aircraft. The 'Open Category' rules set out in CAP722 can be used by anyone in the UK, regardless of whether they are members of any club or association and, amongst other things, include a ban on flying above 400ft. The Open Category requirements will not apply to BMFA members flying in accordance with the terms and conditions of our Article 16 Authorisation.
There is a lot of information to digest, but to assist with this we have produced a new ‘Quick Start Guide’ which can be viewed at https://rcc.bmfa.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BMFA-QSG-V16.pdf. We have also produced a more detailed guide which can be viewed at https://rcc.bmfa.uk/article-16, where you can also access the Article 16 Authorisation document.
We will be holding a Zoom Webinar at 7.30pm on Monday 21st December, to explain the Authorisation further for which you can register at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/7616081155190/WN_Fs1b3JWTS-6co_Rx_fxUmA. Places are limited, but a recording will be made available to view afterwards.
It has been a long process to arrive at this point, starting with negotiations with EASA and the European Commission back in 2015 which laid the foundation for special recognition for model flying within the EU unmanned aircraft regulations. Once the EU regulations were finalised, we then entered into prolonged negotiations with the DfT & CAA to try and arrive at a sensible outcome for members.
I would like to record my thanks to our special advisers (Cliff Whittaker and Roger Hopkinson MBE) and also to Rob Buckley (Secretary of the LMA) for the many hours they have put in to help us achieve this outcome for the UK Associations.
Dave Phipps – CEO