Flight Categories and Classifications

Flight Categories and Classifications

The new regulations and flight categories are based around these criteria:

  • Type of operation being conducted
  • Level of risk involved
  • Level of performance/capabilities required

They do not segregate or differentiate between a Commercial or Non-Commercial / hobby Pilot.

There are now three flight categories in the new drone regulations:

Open Category

Open category operations present no risk or low risk to third parties.

These operations are conducted in accordance with basic and pre-defined characteristics and are not subject to any further authorisation.

The controlling factors for the Open Category are

  • You must pass the online test and hold a Flyer-ID, and must register as a UAS operator, and display your Operator ID on your UAS:
  • The maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of the unmanned aircraft must be less than 25kg;
  • The unmanned aircraft must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS);
  • The unmanned aircraft must not be flown higher than 120 metres (400 feet);
  • You must not fly within the Flight Restriction Zone of a protected aerodrome, or within any other airspace restriction without permission.

All of these factors must apply for an Open Category operation. If not, then the operation must be the Specific category.

Specific Category

Specific category operations present a greater risk with one or more elements of the operation falling outside the boundaries of the Open category. They will require Operational Authorisation from the CAA based on a risk assessment.

Certified Category

Certified category operations present the same level of risk to manned aviation and will be subjected to the same regulatory regime (i.e. certification of the aircraft, certification of the operator, licensing of the pilot).

All Flight Risk Assessments from January 2021 now change and are classified as Open, Specific or Certified based on the proximity of flying to people and the level of risk involved.

The flying of any drone or model aircraft in the UK is covered by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulations.

CAA Flight Regulations

There are a basic set of regulations for flying unmanned aircraft within the UK. Operating within these limits will ensure you remain in the ‘Open Category’, meaning that you don’t need an authorisation from the CAA to fly.

If you intend to operate outside any of these limits, in the Specific or Certified category detailed above, you must first obtain an Operational Authorisation.

Flight categories