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When Do You Require an Operational Authorisation for Your Drone?

Table of Contents

As you may already be aware, within the framework of Regulation (EU) 947/2019, three distinct categories have been established to govern the flight of drones. These categories, primarily stratified by the level of operational risk involved, encompass the following:

  • The Open Category
  • The Specific Category
  • The Certified Category

To navigate the Open Category, it becomes imperative to align with the requisites stipulated within the defined scenarios. For those seeking a more comprehensive understanding of the Open Category, please follow this link.

The Specific Category introduces a layer of complexity, featuring three diverse avenues:

  • Standard Scenarios
  • Predefined Risk Assessments (PDRA)
  • Operational Authorisations

For a deeper dive into the nuances of the Specific Category, click here

Within the confines of this article, our focus centers on Operational Authorisations, illuminating the circumstances necessitating their deployment and the comprehensive considerations entailed. Shall we embark on this journey? ✈️

What is an Operational Authorisation?

 Let’s draw an analogy to simplify the concept. Picture a supermarket – an emporium that facilitates the acquisition of sustenance in three distinct manners tailored to individual tastes and exigencies:

  1. Ready-to-consume, pre-cooked dishes.
  2. Cooking recipe kits.
  3. Customised culinary creations.

The first option seamlessly aligns with Standard Scenarios, which represent meticulously defined operational scenarios dictating where, how, and with which aircraft one may take flight. For those eager to explore further into the realm of Standard Scenarios as elucidated by EASA, the following link provides invaluable insight. 

The second option correlates with Predefined Risk Assessments (PDRA). While these may eventually evolve into Standard Scenarios, for now, they constitute a compendium of prerequisites incumbent upon Drone Operators for designated scenarios. Diverging from Standard Scenarios, the onus is on the operator to substantiate compliance with all requisites, entailing the submission of meticulous documentation for regulatory scrutiny.Notably, operators retain a degree of autonomy in determining their compliance approach. Delve deeper into PDRA, meticulously documented by EASA, via this link 

Now, let’s arrive at the crux of our discourse: conducting operations bereft of a Standard Scenario and encountering incompatibility with existing PDRA offerings. In such a scenario, the sole recourse is to embark on an uncharted course, configuring an operational setting tailored to one’s aspirations, including the delineation of prerequisites and procedural guidelines. This constitutes an Operational Authorisation.

Path to Attaining Operational Authorisation

To secure an operational authorisation meriting regulatory approval, it necessitates a capacity to substantiate:


  • The proficiency of the drone operators in their designated roles.
  • The safety of the aircraft employed for the operation.
  • The execution of appropriate maintenance for the fleet.
  • The fidelity of the operator’s flight procedures, spanning normal, contingency, and emergency scenarios.
  • The availability of a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan.
  • The existence of a well-documented safety assessment.

These elements typically coalesce into an array of formal documents, including:


Technical Aircraft Characterisation

This document meticulously encapsulates all pertinent aircraft data, encompassing maximum takeoff mass (MTOM), dimensional specifications, lighting configurations, piloting modes, emergency systems, and more. 

Aircraft Maintenance Manual and Program

This document offers a blueprint for aircraft maintenance procedures and proffers a maintenance schedule, frequently hinged on flight hours and elapsed calendar months, demarcating the requisite criteria for an aircraft to retain airworthiness status.

Operations Manual

Undoubtedly the linchpin document, the Operations Manual delineates the corporate entity, its personnel roster, and its hierarchical structure. It furthermore expounds upon personnel training prerequisites, elucidates the spectrum of operations envisaged, outlines procedural protocols, and articulates courses of action in the event of incidents or accidents, among other facets.

Aeronautical Safety Study

This document conducts a comprehensive risk assessment of ground and aerial operations, concretising mitigatory measures. Typically, this evaluative process adheres to the SORA methodology. For those seeking deeper insights into the SORA methodology, consult this link

Emergency Response Plan

In many instances, this document is subsumed within the purview of the Operations Manual. It meticulously codifies response procedures in the event of an emergency, spanning from the immediate actions of company personnel to minimise emergent threats and curtail their escalation, to the requisite notifications to pertinent emergency services.

Varieties of Operational Authorisations

Within the dynamic landscape of the drone industry, novel exigencies continue to arise, mandating recourse to the Operational Authorisation framework, given the absence of PDRA or Standard Scenarios tailored to specific requirements.

Here at EU Drone Port 🇪🇺, we have tirelessly championed diverse authorisation typologies, serving as a conduit for pioneering industry players. Below, we furnish an array of links to exemplify the array of projects currently holding authorisation status, encompassing endeavours such as Swarm of over 100 drones for Drone Shows, Drone in a box, and operations involving Drones exceeding 25 kg (Heavy Lifters)