As mentioned in previous issues, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) has been working on an update of its Regulation on drones under 150 kg, which was much-awaited due to their dramatic increase in use in Italy since 2013, when the first edition was published. The product of the lessons learned from the practical application of the Regulation in the previous year, and of the demands put forward by the industry and operators, the draft second edition was published last March on the website of ENAC and submitted to a consultation process. However, it was not until the 16th of July that a final version was agreed on and published.
The second edition of the ENAC Regulation on Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles comes into force on the 14th of September this year, 60 days after the date of publication. As in the previous edition and the draft second edition, it makes a distinction between two types of UAV: above and below 25 kg of take-off weight. Along with this weight-based classification, the Regulation classifies drone operations according to their criticality. This is linked to the difference between the operational conditions VLOS (visual line of sight) or BLOS (beyond line of sight), i.e. the pilot’s capacity to visually track the drone.
The specific rules on UAVs of less than 25 kg of take-off mass introduce a new obligation for operators: from the 1st of July 2016, every unmanned aircraft in Italy will have to display an electronic identificative device that allows the transmission and recording of data related to the operation in real time. Furthermore, the vehicle and its ground station must both have a license plate that identifies the system and its operator. Non-critical operations must be assessed by the operator as regards the vehicle’s airworthiness, the planned activity and the relative risks. A declaration of compliance must then be submitted to ENAC. The critical nature of operations depends on the location: flying over urban or congested areas, buildings or important infrastructure would be considered critical. In this case, a specific authorisation must be obtained from ENAC beforehand, which is granted only after satisfactory assessment of the drone’s airworthiness, the pilot’s reliability, the type of operation and the location. Critical operations with UAVs under 25 kg over urban areas are now allowed under several conditions: the vehicle needs to have an acceptable level of safety, i.e. a command and control system whose software complies with the EUROCAE ED-12 standards (reliability level D, at least); the aircraft must also be equipped with a system that ensures that control is maintained if the data link is lost, or at least that the effects of the loss are minimized, and it must also have an independently-controlled flight termination system. Flying over groups of people remains prohibited in any case.
It is noteworthy that special provisions on RPAS lighter than 2 kg have been adopted. The Regulation states that operations with RPAS whose maximum take-off mass is less than or equal to 2 kg are always considered non-critical, provided that the RPAS’ design characteristics are of an inoffensive nature, as assessed by ENAC.
As for UAVs with a maximum take-off weight of 25 kg or more, they must also display a license plate that identifies the system, operator and relevant ground station. Vehicles of this type must be registered with ENAC, who carries out an airworthiness assessment test. Drone manufacturers may request a certificate of airworthiness for any given standard model of UAV directly to ENAC. Otherwise, UAVs may only be operated with an ad hoc flying permit. In any case, ENAC authorization is always required, regardless of the criticality of the operation, and the operator must set up a proper maintenance programme in order to ensure on-going airworthiness.
There is still a third category: model aircrafts which are regulated separately. They are defined as a remotely piloted device used solely for recreational and sport purposes, which is under constant visual control by the operator, without the help of any instruments. This category is subject to a more lenient framework, and does not include any declarations or authorisation. The technical requirements for model aircraft in order to avoid applying to ENAC for temporary reserved airspace are: maximum take-off weight of less than 25 kg, maximum wing surface of 500 dm², maximum wing loading of 250 g/dm², maximum piston engine size of 250 cm³, maximum electric engine power of 15 kW, maximum turbine engine thrust of 25 kg (250 N), maximum turboprop engine power of 15 kW. Other requirements include that operations take place in non-populated areas far from buildings and infrastructure, within a maximum radius of 200m, and within a height of 70m. Assessing compliance with these requirements is the operator’s responsibility. If they are not met, model aircraft operations can only take place in a dedicated space selected by ENAC, or after a temporary reserved airspace is instituted.
A very important amendment has been made with regard to permits for pilots: in order to operate RPAS under 25 kg in VLOS conditions a ‘Remote Pilot Certificate (‘Attestato di Pilota remoto’ – Article 21) will be required, while a ‘Remote Pilot License’ (‘Licenza di Pilota remoto’ – Article 22) will be compulsory for operating heavier RPAS and BLOS operations. New aeronautical titles have thus been introduced into the Italian system, specifically for UAV pilots. The new Certificate will be issued by a series of authorized centres after passing an exam, while the exam for the License may only be taken with ENAC. A training period is envisaged in both cases.
Finally, all drones must come with a flight manual or equivalent, and all research and development activities must be authorized by ENAC. Operators must keep detailed records of their flights and submit them to ENAC every year. The Regulation also provides for mandatory third-party insurance for any kind of drone operation, in compliance with the EU Regulation 785/2004, and subordinates the processing of personal data collected through UAV to the provisions of the Italian Data Protection Code.
See “The New Italian Regulation on UAV” in The Aviation & Space Journal Year XIV no 2 April-June. .(//www.aviationspacejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/The-Aviation-Space-Journal-Year-XIV-no-2-April-June-2015.pdf)
Regolamento ENAC “Mezzi aerei a pilotaggio remoto” (ENAC Regulation “Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles”), 2nd edition, published on July 16th 2015, accessible in Italian at: https://www.enac.gov.it/repository/ContentManagement/information/N122671512/Reg_APR_Ed%202_2.pdf