The abbreviation AGL stands for “above ground level” and refers to the altitude above ground level. Accordingly, AGL indicates the altitude above a certain point on the ground (e.g. the take-off position). However, in hilly terrain, the altitude of the UAS in flight can quickly become imprecise or inaccurate.
In autonomous operation, the UAS operates independently, and no external intervention in its operation is possible. However, for this mode of operation, an operational authorization in the specific category has to be obtained from the competent authority (see operational authorization).
The abbreviation stands for “beyond visual line of sight operation” and describes the operation of UAS beyond the line of sight. This mode of operation is not permitted in the open category.
Category of operation
The operation of drones is divided into three categories of operation (open category, specific category, certified category). The categories of operation differ in terms of the varying risk of harm to third parties, for instance depending on the drone’s mass, on whether it is flown near humans and on the flying altitude and distance. For every category of operation, there are different rules and regulations.
The certified category is one of the three operation categories drone operations can fall into. The certified category usually covers the operation of large and heavy drones, operations above large groups of people and the carriage of passengers as well as high-risk dangerous goods.
See entry on UAS.
Drone operators have to register online with the Federal Aviation Office (LBA), from which they will receive a registration number: the electronic registration number of the UAS operator (e-ID). The drone has to be marked with an e-ID. With this marking, the drone can be unambiguously linked to its owner.
EU certificate of competency
The EU certificate of competency is required for the operation of drones of sub-categories A1 and A3 and will be issued after successfully completing an online training course and an online theoretical knowledge examination.
EU certificate of remote pilot competency
The EU certificate of remote pilot competency is a certificate of competency of remote pilots in accordance with EU Regulation 2019/947. Such a certificate is required for the operation of a drone of sub-category A2. In addition to the EU certificate of competency, practical self-study and passing a theoretical knowledge examination is required.
Federal Aviation Office (Luftfahrt-Bundesamt, LBA)
The Federal Aviation Office (LBA) is a higher-level federal authority and an executive agency of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV). Among other things, the LBA is responsible for operator registration, issuing the EU certificate of competency and, in some federal states, for issuing operational authorizations in the specific category.
Federal state aviation authority
Federal state aviation authorities are the bodies designated for the individual federal states that are responsible, among other things, for processing applications concerning flights within geographical zones and issuing operational authorizations for the specific category (exceptions: see “operational authorization”)
The abbreviation MTOM stands for „maximum take-off mass“ which means the maximum permissible take-off mass of the unmanned aircraft, including payload and fuel, as specified by the manufacturer or builder, at which the unmanned aircraft can be operated.
The open category is one of the three categories of operation that drone operations can fall into. Privately used drones are usually operated in the open category. Moreover, drone operations in the open category are divided into the sub-categories A1, A2 and A3.
If the requirements for drone operations in the ‘open’ category are not complied with, operations must be performed in the categories which are subject to authorization. Authorizations for the ‘specific’ category of operations are granted in accordance with Article 12 of Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947.
The application must be submitted to the federal state aviation authority that is locally competent for the applicant. In the case of natural persons, jurisdiction depends on the applicant’s main place of residence; in the case of legal persons, it depends on the applicant’s place of business. If one of the following federal states has local jurisdiction, competence has been transferred from that federal state to the Federal Aviation Office (LBA): Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, Saxony and Thuringia.
A UAS operator is a natural or legal person who operates or plans to operate one or more drones. In Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, this person is referred to as “unmanned aircraft system operator” or “UAS operator” for short. The operator is responsible for ensuring compliance with statutory requirements. Since 31 December 2020, every UAS operator operating a UAS with a take-off mass of 250 g or more is required to register. Registration is also obligatory for UAS of less than 250 g if the UAS is equipped with a sensor for recording personal data, e. g. with a camera.
A remote pilot is a natural person responsible for the safe performance of a drone flight. Here, flight control is either performed manually or monitored in the case of autonomous operation.
The specific category is one of the three operation categories drone operations can fall into. If the conditions for the open category are not met, the drone operation is assigned to the specific category.
Sub-categories should be understood as further specification levels for drones within the open category. Currently, there are the sub-categories A1, A2 and A3.Im allgemeinen Sprachgebrauch wird ein zivil genutztes UAS auch als Drohne bezeichnet.
The abbreviation UAS stands for “unmanned aircraft system” and means an unmanned aircraft and the equipment to control it remotely.
In everyday language, a UAS used for civil purposes is also referred to as a drone.
UAS geographical zone
UAS geographical zones are zones in which the operation of UAS is expressly permitted, prohibited or permitted subject to certain conditions. The designation of UAS geographical zones helps minimize risks to safety, privacy and personal data as well as environmental risks associated with the operation of UAS.
The abbreviation “VLOS” stands for “visual line of sight operation” and means operations where there is a line of sight between the remote operator and the unmanned aircraft. In the open category, UAS may only be operated in VLOS. Here, the actual range of vision without technical aids and not the theoretical range of vision is what matters. In very dense fog, the range of vision might be as little as two metres (cf. “BVLOS”).