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120 m Height Limit for C0 Drones

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When flying a drone, the rules created by the European Union must be followed. This regulation categorizes drones into different classes, considering their intended purpose and the potential risks they may pose to individuals and other airspace users.

A fundamental rule in the open category is to fly within the visual line of sight (VLOS) and below 120 meters in altitude.

However, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 & C6  can exceptionally exceed this altitude in very particular situations, such as when having the approval of the owner of an obstacle (such as a building) taller than 105 meters, for the purpose of conducting aerial work above said obstacle. In this case, the operator is authorised to fly up to 15 meters above the obstacle.

However, this exception cannot be met with Class 0 drones. Let’s see why C0 cannot benefit from surpassing the altitude limits.

Why a Height Limit of 120 Meters for Drones?

Manned aircraft typically fly above 150 meters, so the probability of encountering a manned aircraft above 120 meters is much higher (a safety margin of 30 meters has been added).

Therefore, operations in the open category must be limited to 120 meters. However, as mentioned earlier, in very special circumstances, it is possible to unlock the 120-meter altitude limit.

Height Limitation for Class C0 Drones

Small-sized drones, those with a maximum weight of up to 250 grams, vary widely in design and use. While some of these devices may be classified as toys, others can be examples of advanced technology, such as the DJI Mini model and similar drones.

In terms of safety, it has been assessed that drones operating at relatively low speeds, below 19 m/s, pose limited risk to people. However, there is a notable concern in situations where these drones might collide with aircraft, especially with smaller-sized ones or with lighter-than-air vehicles, such as hot air balloons. In such circumstances, even a small drone could pose a significant danger.

Therefore, in the open subcategory A1, a significant simplification was introduced in the operation of C0 drones:

    • No training is required for remote pilots.

    • Geoawareness is not mandatory.

    • Remote identification is not necessary.

This represents a great simplification. But these facilities are balanced with stricter operational requirements, such as the strict height limit of 120 meters.

Allowing remote pilots to use C0 drones to fly higher without understanding the potential risks, taught in the A1/A3 online training, could lead to accidents. Furthermore, a 250g drone is generally very small and may not be visible (hindering maintaining VLOS) at a distance greater than a few dozen meters. At a distance of 120 meters, the drone would be undetectable, posing a significant safety risk.

Nevertheless, nothing prevents a manufacturer from marking a drone under 250g as C1. In this case, remote pilots will need to complete online training and will be allowed to unlock the 120-meter limit. The training is straightforward and is very important to ensure that drone pilots are aware of the responsibility they have in their hands and the risks they may pose to other airspace users.