The ‘open’ category is one of the three categories of operation. This category covers flights with drones which pose a low risk and therefore do not require authorization to operate. This category is particularly relevant for private drone pilots.
Current situation and use of existing drones
Existing drones, i.e. drones without a C classification as defined by Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and which were put on the market prior to 1 January 2024, can still be operated in sub-categories A1 and A3 of the ‘open’ category of operation as follows:
- Devices with a maximum permissible take-off mass (MTOM) of less than 250 g in sub-category A1
- Devices with an MTOM of less than 25 kg in sub-category A3
In addition, the following transitional arrangements apply in the Federal Republic of Germany for the operation of existing drones until 31 December 2023:
- UAS of up to 500 g may continue to be operated under the conditions of sub-category A1 without a drone licence.
- Pilots of UAS of up to 2 kg may operate their UAS at a distance from uninvolved persons of at least 50 m provided that they have the appropriate level of competency. This is the case if the remote pilot holds
- an EU certificate of remote pilot competency of category A2 or
- a national certivicate of competency as well as an EU certificate of competency of category A1/A3 and has submitted a self-declaration on the completion of a practical self-study course as set out in point UAS.OPEN.030(2)(b).
- UAS of more than 2 kg and less than 25 kg without a C classification may only be operated in sub-category A3. Pilots need an EU certificate of competency of category A1/A3 for operation. As an alternative, flight operations are permitted until 31 December 2022 on the basis of a national certificate of competency.
Within the ‘open’ category, another distinction is made with regard to the specifications of the drone and the area in which the drone mission is to take place. Drone operations in the ‘open’ category are subdivided into sub-categories A1, A2 and A3 for this purpose.
Sub-category A1 permits pilots who have participated in an online training course and have successfully completed an online examination to operate a UAS of up to 900 g. This sub-category permits overflying of individuals. If the UAS weighs less than 250 g and does not have a sensor able to capture personal data, the obligation to provide a certificate of competency is waived.
Sub-category A2 requires drones to be operated at a safe distance from people. However, this category allows drones with a maximum permissible take-off mass of up to 4 kg to be operated. In addition to the certificate of competency of category A1/A3, the remote pilot must undergo a practical course of self-training and a written theoretical test to obtain the EU remote pilot certificate. A list of recognized testing centers for taking the exam is provided by the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt.
Sub-category A3 allows drone flights with a take-off mass of up to 25 kg. However, a safety distance of at least 150 m from people, populated areas, recreational areas, industrial facilities etc. must be respected for operations in this category in accordance with the geographical zones. In order to qualify, the EU certificate of competency of category A1/A3 (online training and examination) must be completed.
An overview of the three sub-categories and the respective requirements regarding the drone category, the planned flight operation and the qualification of the drone pilot can be found in the following table:
< 250 g
< 900 g
EU certificate of competency
< 4 kg
EU remote pilot certificate
< 25 kg
EU certificate of competency
The following chart also provides an overview of the requirements of the ‘open’ category and can help with the categorization of drone operations (Source German only).