Geospatial and agribusiness consulting firms NGS Lab and Agro Solutions, collaborated on a surveying project for a private client who needed to map an 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac investment property in Georgia.
The client wanted to determine the percentage of arable land, the most suitable crops for cultivation, and irrigation planning and design options.
The project’s size made the team choose two fixed-wing drones, eBee X and eBee Ag, that would be flown simultaneously. By deploying a multi-drone mission, the data was collected in just 3 days with three operators in the field.
Learn more about the challenges and the ROI of the project in this webinar and blog post.
TABLE OF CONTENT
On 1 January 2021, the European Commission harmonized civil drone regulations across the following countries: European Union’s 27-Member States + Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland (process ongoing), and United Kingdom (partially).
The regulations require all operators of drones above 250 g to register with their country’s National Aviation Authority (NAA). This can be where the operator lives or at their principal place of business. This registration is valid for the period defined by the NAA.
Once registered, the operator receives a registration number that must be displayed on all its drones and uploaded onto the remote identification system. This number is recognized in all European Union member states.
AgEagle’s Head of Regulation Pierre-Alain Marchand explains the current European drone regulations in this blog post.
The European regulatory framework (2019/945 and 2019/947) takes an operation risk-based approach, which considers the drone’s weight, technical and safety specifications and the type of operation being conducted.
There are three categories of drone operations in the EU regulations:
Open Category (including transitional Limited Open Category)
The Open Category for low-risk operations is composed of:
Both are for UAS under 25 kg and have the following operational limitations: max. flight altitude 120 m AGL and visual line of sight (VLOS) flights.
Operations in the Open Category do not require authorization from a National Aviation Authority (NAA) because they are considered low risk.
To give drone manufacturers time to certify their drones for the Open Category, a Limited Open Category transition period is in effect until December 2023.
This Limited Open Category is composed of three subcategories based on the drone’s maximum take-off weight including payload (MTOW):
A1 subcategory – For drones below 500 g MTOW
A2 subcategory – For drones below 2 kg MTOW – eBee X series
A3 subcategory – Drones between 2 kg and 25 kg MTOW – WingtraOne GEN II VTOL, Quantum Trinity F90+ eVTOL and DJI Matrice 300 RTK
The drone entries this category once assessed by a Notified Body and granted with one of the class identifications C0, C1, C2, C3, C4. The higher the class number, the greater the operational limitations. The drone manufacturer is responsible for certifying the drones.
The Open Category is subdivided into:
COMPARISON: C2-A2 vs C3-A3
The most common class identifications for professional drones are C2 and C3, operating in Open Category A2 and A3.
C2 class drone flying in subcategory A2 – e.g. eBee X series
C3 class drone flying in subcategory A3 – e.g. WingtraOne GEN II VTOL, Quantum Trinity F90+ eVTOL and DJI Matrice 300 RTK
All eBee X, eBee Ag and eBee Geo drones shipped in Europe by AgEagle from September 2022, include the C2 label at no extra cost.
For eBee X series drones already in the market, we will provide customers with an option to be C2 compliant by December 2023, when the Limited Open Category concludes.
Operational advantages of C2 drones:
If your business operations require flying BVLOS, OOP, or near residential, commercial, industrial, or recreational areas – not accessible to heavy VTOLs and quadcopters – you can now benefit from the regulatory advantages of C2 lightweight drones by upgrading to an eBee fixed-wing UAS.
For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This category applies to drone operations which pose a level of risk not covered under the Open Category, such as extended visual line of sight operations (EVLOS), beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), operations over people (OOP), or package delivery.
One of four procedures should be followed to operate in this category, for all of which the drone operator is required to obtain a National Aviation Authority (NAA) authorization:
Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA): The suggested method for eBee users, as they benefit from a simplified process thanks to eBee X series drones M2 Ground Risk Class (GCR) mitigation. Drone operators are required to perform a risk appraisal using the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) methodology. This 10-step process defines the risk of the mission, that will be assessed by the NAA. For more info on SORA, read here.
The eBee X series drones are the industry’s first UAVs to receive a Design Verification Report from EASA on the M2 Ground Risk Class (GRC) mitigation, a step in the SORA process to obtain BVLOS and OOP approval.
As a result, eBee X operators benefit from a simplified SORA authorization process by having a lower ground risk score without needing additional verification from EASA.
Predefined Risk Assessment (PDRA): This is an assessment to conduct basic advanced operations (such as EVLOS at 120 m / 150 m) in Europe, with a scenario already covered by one of the EASA published PDRAs. Because the risk of the operation is lower, instead of conducting a full risk assessment, the operator will have to provide some documentation to support the application for NAA authorization.
Standard Scenario (STS): Upcoming. Analogous to the PDRA, but the drone must have a class marking (C5 or C6). The mission is conducted under a predefined operation published by the EASA. The operator must submit an operation declaration to the NAA where he/she is registered and await confirmation.
Note: Upcoming class identification C5 and C6 will be available for Standard Scenarios. When available, the eBee X series will apply to obtain C6 certification for BVLOS operations with airspace observers over a controlled ground area in a sparsely populated environment (STS-02).
Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC): Rare certificate to which only organizations can apply after filling the requirements. It’s mainly for repetitive missions with the same operational characteristics. Organizations with a LUC certificate can self-assess the operation’s risk and self-authorize it under their responsibility.
Operations that fall under the Certified Category are those that are believed to pose the highest risk because they would likely involve the transportation of people or dangerous goods, envisioned for air taxis or cargo drones.
Purchasing a drone that matches your operational needs and with EU drone regulation compliance in mind can simplify your operation processes. We strongly recommend that you check:
For more information about the EU or other drone regulations, contact us directly at email@example.com
AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc provides this information for informational purposes only. The texts, graphics, images, and references don’t constitute legal advice. While we try to keep the information timely and accurate, we make no guarantees. AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc. is not liable for the actions taken based on this document’s information.
In Europe, new regulations and processes are being established to ensure Flights Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and Operations Over People (OOP) are conducted safely and responsibly. These advanced drone operations are very efficient options for collecting large amounts of data quickly, but they also come with extra safety and logistical considerations.
AgEagle’s Head of Regulation Pierre-Alain Marchand explains in this blog post the main steps to achieve a SORA authorization to conduct BVLOS and OOP missions under the European drone regulations.
Do you prefer to watch it online? European drone regulations – SORA explained
On January 1, 2021, the European Union (EU) started standardizing civil drone regulations across the continent. Prior to this date, drone regulations differed from country to country. By standardizing the rules, the EU aims to make drone operations easier and safer for everyone.
The new rules replace each European Union state’s existing laws and apply to all drone operators. This allows a drone pilot to operate in all the member states, once he or she is registered in one of these countries.
The EU drone regulation is applicable in these 27 European Union member states:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden
Plus: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland (ongoing), UK (partial adoption).
The EU drone regulation is divided into three categories, Open, Specific and Certified, each detailing accessibility based on the characteristics of the drone platform in use and type of operation.
Certified Category – designated for higher-risk operations such as the delivery of dangerous goods with a drone.
Specific Category – designated for advanced operations such as flying Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS), Operations Over People (OOP), flying multiple drones in fleet, and more.
Open Category – designated for low-risk operations such as Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) flights under 120 m in altitude.
If your operation can’t be conducted in the Open Category or is not falling under a standard scenario of the Specific Category, you will require approval from your National Aviation Authority (NAA) according to the SORA methodology.
SORA stands for Specific Operations Risk Assessment. It’s a 10-step risk process within the EU Specific Category to define the safety requirements to conduct your OOP and BVLOS operations.
In this article, we will focus on 4 SORA crucial steps:
SORA contains the following table that you can use to determine the ground risk of your operation.
1. Check the characteristics of your drone, such as size and kinetic energy. This will determine which column of the table your operation will fall.
With its size and cruise speed, the eBee X falls into the first column on the left (1 m / approx. 3 ft).
2. Define the operational scenario (BVLOS / VLOS, populated area / sparsely populated / gathering of people, etc.) This will define in which row of the table your operation will fall.
3. The intersection of the column and row will give you your Ground Risk Class value.
Example: Let’s say you want to do a BVLOS operation over a populated area – your initial ground risk would be 5 as seen in the first column.
Your drone platform of choice can provide you with some benefits through Ground Risk mitigation. See below.
It’s possible to reduce the Ground Risk Class with the mitigation M1, M2 and M3.
M1 – is a strategic mitigation put into place by the pilot in command before the operation.
M2 – is based on the drone design, you need to prove that the drone has a low risk in case of collision.
M3 – is dependent on the operator’s emergency response plan.
As an industry-leading manufacturer, we have worked with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to get an M2 mitigation of -1 or -2 (-2 with a max flight altitude of 45,7 m / 150 ft above ground level) for eBee X, eBee Geo and eBee Ag drones. Through continued work with EASA, we expect to achieve a higher max flight altitude for -2 in the near future.
The EASA design verification report for M2 mitigation demonstrates that the eBee drones meet the highest possible quality and ground risk safety standards and, thanks to its lightweight design, effects of ground impact are reduced. As such, drone operators conducting advanced drone operations in the 27 European Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland can obtain the HIGH (-2) or MEDIUM (-1) robustness levels of the M2 mitigation without additional verification from EASA.
Example: Going back to our initial Ground Risk of 5, with M2 mitigation, you could reach a Ground Risk as low as 3 for BVLOS operations over a populated area.
The next step in the process is the Air Risk Assessment. You’ll need to determine which Air Risk Class your operation is conducted in:
ARC – a – If you’re operating in restricted airspace (for example, if a NOTAM is in place).ARC – b – If you operate in uncontrolled airspace over a rural area.ARC – c – If you operate in uncontrolled airspace over an urban area.ARC – d – If you operate in controlled airspace.
It’s important to note that for BVLOS operations in ARC categories b, c, or d, you will need a solution to see and avoid air traffic.
Example: A BVLOS operation with the eBee X that will be conducted over an urban area will fall within the ARC – c.
Similar to the Ground Risk, it’s possible to reduce the initial Air Risk to ARC – b (rural) if traffic is lower than expected. For example, because manned aviation is rare at low altitudes above cities.
Next, you’ll determine the SAIL level of your operation based on the Ground Risk Class (GRC) and the Air Risk Class (ARC).
Example: Using our earlier designations of Ground Risk Class 3 and Air Risk of ARC – b, you can see that the SAIL level would be II, which remains easy to achieve.
There are alternative methods to approval, however, they are not as simple.
Without our mitigation, the SAIL level would be IV, making it more difficult because it requires several months of work and an expensive review of the design by the EASA.
With a larger drone and without mitigation the SAIL level would be a V, making it extremely difficult because you will require a full certification of your solution.
Once you have your SAIL level determined, you need to prove that you comply with each Operational Safety Objective (OSO).
A different level of justification is required based on the SAIL of your operation:
O = OptionalL = Low M = MediumH = High
Finally, we’re able to leverage our SAIL II classification to determine the level of operational safety objectives.
Example: Referencing the above chart using our SAIL II classification, OSO 7 states that light inspection of the UAS (product inspection) is required to ensure consistency with the Concept of Operations (ConOps).
You’ll need several documents to request authorization from your National Aviation Authority. We’ve created a comprehensive list of document templates that makes the application process smoother for eBee owners:
ConOps – You’ll need to describe when and where you’ll fly, the procedures, your training and details about the drone you’ll use.
Document templates – To facilitate the process and save you tens of hours of paperwork, we’ve prepared a set of documentation you can adapt for your own SAIL I or SAIL II operation.
Direct contact – For more information or to request document templates, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There have already been some early adopters of SORA, who have taken advantage of the eBee X M2 mitigation when seeking approvals from their National Aviation Authorities.
Safe Drone Academy is based in Ireland and has been approved for VLOS over populated areas.
Romania-based SysCAD Solutions is approved for BVLOS operations over sparsely populated and populated areas.
Guide – Advanced drone operations: BVLOS, OOP, multi-drone
AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc. announces that eBee X, eBee Geo and eBee Ag are the first commercial drones to be designated with the C2 class identification label in accordance with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations. As of August 22, 2022, drone operators flying C2 labeled eBees will be able to conduct missions in the “Open Category”, with all the advantages that this entails.
The C2 certification allows the eBee X series, with correct labelling, to fly at a horizontal distance of 30 meters from uninvolved people. By contrast, heavy drones like VTOLs or quadcopters must maintain a distance of 150 meters from people and any residential, commercial, industrial and recreational areas, limiting their operational capabilities to remote zones.
According to Barrett Mooney, Chairman and CEO of AgEagle, “When compared to the weight and safety profiles of other competitive commercial drones, only the eBee are cleared to fly commercial operations near people with the C2 class identification label. This represents a huge market differential for our customers in Europe, that will be able to operate around populated areas without any formal permission or regulatory waiver”.
In addition, the eBee X series are also the industry’s first drones (June 2022) to receive a Design Verification Report (DVR) from EASA on M2 Ground Risk Mitigation for the European “Specific Category” to conduct BVLOS and Operations Over People (OOP). The DVR paves the way for European drone operators to seek approvals from their applicable National Aviation Authorities.
To be designated as a C2 aircraft, eBees underwent rigorous testing and evaluation by the accredited laboratory NavCert GmbH to confirm that they meet specific EASA criteria. C2 class aircraft must weigh less than 4 kg / 8.8 lbs maximum takeoff weight (MTOM), have remote ID and geo-awareness, and be compliant with the safety and manufacturing standards of the European Union.
Marcel Visser, Managing Director of NavCert GmbH, stated, “We congratulate AgEagle on this important achievement, and we wish them a high market share for the eBee X series drones. We are grateful that NavCert has been selected as the Notified Body (NB 2603) to assess the eBee X series fixed-wing drones for the CE mark. Our background in the aviation industry and the development of the EN 4709 standard has been essential to performing the technical assessments required in the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 on unmanned aircraft systems. We will continue to ensure the required level of quality and safety for drone operations in the European Union”.
All eBee X, eBee Ag and eBee Geo drones shipped by AgEagle company, from September 2022, will include the C2 label at no extra cost.
For more information contact us at email@example.com
About AgEagle Aerial Systems Inc.
Through its three centers of excellence, AgEagle is actively engaged in designing and delivering best-in-class flight hardware, sensors and software that solve important problems for its customers. Founded in 2010, AgEagle was originally formed to pioneer proprietary, professional-grade, fixed-winged drones and aerial imagery-based data collection and analytics solutions for the agriculture industry. Today, AgEagle is a leading provider of full stack drone solutions for customers worldwide in the energy, construction, agriculture, and government verticals. For additional information, please visit our website at www.ageagle.com.
About NavCert GmbH.
NavCert is the first laboratory ever accredited in Europe in the field of GNSS. The firm provides worldwide technical services, verification, validation, and voluntary certification services in the areas of precise positioning, navigation, velocity and timing. NavCert is accredited as certification body for the assessing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by the Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS) and is a Notified Body (NB 2603) of the German Federal Office of Civil Aeronautics for the EU Type Examination and Certification of fixed-wing, VTOL and multicopter UAS in classes C0 to C6 in the Open Category according to the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945. NavCert chairs the coordination group of notified bodies for UAS. These activities are complemented by GAP analysis of specification and documentation and pre-testing.
It’s no secret that advanced drone operations bring a robust return on investment, but how easy are they to implement into your workflow? We sat down with Michael Blake, AgEagle Product Manager, to discuss if Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) should be considered a simple tool or if in-depth training and education are needed to become a compliant advanced drone operator.
As drones have become more accessible, advanced drone operations are gaining momentum. So, what do we mean by advanced drone operations? Generally, they are operations including flights Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), Operations Over People (OOP), and flying multiple drones as part of a fleet. These operations are very efficient for collecting data, but they come with extra safety and logistical considerations as they are considered more complex.
For instance, you usually need more forward planning and permissions from the relevant authorities to show that your drone can fly safely, in line with local legislation. You also typically need a drone capable of longer flight times. So, the debate on whether drones are a simple tool or require serious piloting skills is more important than ever to ensure safety.
With more aircraft in the air than ever before, drone pilots need to think outside their operations and be mindful of other air traffic. Knowing how to operate drones is just one aspect of integrating drones into workflows; it is also important to use them safely and responsibly.
Across the globe, the rules for flying drones vary widely from country to country, often needing different waivers to be completed – to varying levels of training. Drone operators are responsible for learning new skills and understanding the regulatory landscape as legislation evolves.
There are widespread preconceptions in the aviation industry that drones can pose risks to other aircraft in the same airspace. Similarly, without an in-depth understanding, it may appear that no flying skills are needed – since there is not a pilot on board. This makes it more important to break down the barriers to help ensure safety, as well as smooth integration into airspace, allowing drones and other aircraft to comfortably co-exist.
Operators need to feel comfortable in terms of usage, safety, responsibility, reliability and transportability. Fixed-wing UAVs, like the eBee X, are ideal for BVLOS flights. They’re lightweight and easy to operate, making them safe, with efficient batteries and airframes, which means they can map mid-to large-scale areas with ease. These UAS also have hundreds of thousands of operational flight hours and safety testing, which can help streamline and accelerate BVLOS waiver approvals.
An effective pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight troubleshooting strategy is key to integrating drones into workflows, as well as carrying a high-quality set of spare parts. Not forgetting a consistent level of training to help maintain knowledge and follow any recent updates.
Drone integration into advanced operations will continue to evolve as regulations change around the world. Currently, limited understanding and commonly held perceptions are barriers for adopting UAVs into workflows.
With the right system and training, drones are safe, responsible and easy to use, integrating seamlessly into workflows and airspaces with other aircraft well, to provide a range of benefits.
There is still work to be done to increase awareness and improve drone training – both within the industry and wider society. But the positive steps that have been taken in recent years look set to propel fixed-wings into the future for many years to come.
To continue your training and become an eBee expert with our Certified Operator program, visit: https://www.senseflyacademy.com/
Drones are fast becoming a crucial tool in agriculture, but how do you know if they are the right choice for your business? Olivia Soares de Camargo, Customer Service and Satisfaction Engineer at AgEagle, explores the tangible benefits of drone technology in agriculture -AgTech- and the key considerations before investing.
For farmers and agronomists, estimating annual yield more accurately can help make decisions and manage expectations. Here, drones can offer many benefits, helping to gather more on-demand insights, quickly and efficiently, in a non-destructive way. For example, growers can scout entire fields without ever setting foot in the rows, which helps avoid soil compaction and the spread of pests and diseases while minimizing risks to the worker’s safety.
Return on investment is also crucial. A drone can initially seem like an expensive investment, but it offers many long-term benefits for farmers. Actionable insights gained from drone technology quickly pay for themselves and can be realized in as little as one season.
When taking labor into consideration, if the personnel available is not sufficient to check, or scout the property in question – or if the area is too large to be covered by traditional measures – it may be time to seek alternative methods, such as a drone, that can map up to 500 ha in one single flight.
Plus, when it comes to crops, is productivity below expectations or irregular? Some farmers also decide to switch to agrotechnology with a drone when producing high-value crops, using precision systems, or practicing integrated pest, weed, and disease management (IPM).
Not all drones have the same features. Purchasing one for the first time can be a daunting decision: it needs to be easy to operate and provide high-performance and reliable data collection but at an affordable entry point.
Fixed-wing drones like the eBee X are well placed to meet these requirements – particularly in agriculture applications where greater coverage and longer flight times are needed. Although it is variable depending on the needs of the operation, an integrated solution of drone, camera, and software (including flight management and post-processing) is widely favored.
The eBee X technology also offers the option to upgrade to other features for longer flight times and increased accuracy, with options such as Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) and Post-Processed Kinematic (PPK) and endurance extensions for longer flight times.
The choice of drone sensor is key. Multispectral and RGB are the main cameras used for several applications pre, during, and postseason and the insights gained help direct agronomists and crop scouts to the right spot early.
Orthomosaic maps (RGB sensor) are used for planning the planting prioritizing, soil conservation and for water management to avoid erosion/leaching. NDVI maps with vegetation indices generation (multispectral sensor) highlight crop health, development and production, depending on the crop, variety, and stage.
For example, thanks to the NDVI dataset (right), the farmer can identify various issues in the field.
When it comes to image processing, fixed-wing drones are a great option for reducing human error, while preserving image quality. Users can also carry out the same missions over the same fields on different dates, to compare data, monitor changes and eliminate extra variables.
Choosing RTK/PPK position referencing technology adds an even greater level of accuracy without the need for ground control points.
Once the images are collected, they also need to be processed after the flight, to generate final data outputs – the maps such as orthomosaic, contour line, vegetation index, etc, using specialized software. For this reason, many manufacturers, like AgEagle, generates images in universal formats that are compatible with a range of post-processing software.
The right drone needs to be easy to use and simple to integrate with your workflow and other technologies. It must also be robust, and suitable for withstanding harsh agricultural environments. And how easy is the drone to transport? Ideally, your chosen UAS should be lightweight for carrying between fields and for operating within more regulatory frameworks.
We also advise that agriculture professionals check that their drone is compliant with the appropriate local regulations. Drone regulations still vary significantly across the globe, so keeping up to date with the latest regulatory changes is essential.
Depending on the manufacturer’s standard of technical support available, it can be simple to check if the equipment complies with your local regulations. In the US, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a Part 107 certification to become a licensed drone operator and fly commercially on a farm.
Buying a drone can seem like a big decision, but the opportunities they bring are hard to ignore for farmers and agronomists. New uses are being discovered all the time across the farm, and new applications within each crop continue to rise.
The more time you spend using your drone in the field, the more you will understand the significance of the data, and the easier it will be to see trends and make tangible changes in your workflow. Many drone manufacturers offer online training, to help users get the most out of their devices.
It is an exciting time to invest in a drone for agriculture – why don’t you see for yourself?