EU Specific Category Pilot Competency Course

This course is designed for drone pilots who need to conduct flying operations in the EU Specific Category. This course covers the learning and teaching required for Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) operations. The award for completion of this course is the updated version of the Pilot Competency Certificate (PCC).

This course is designed to comply with the requirements of Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as amended. The PCC is acceptable for all VLOS operations conducted under an EU published Standard Scenario (STS) or Pre-Defined Risk Assessment (PDRA) and indeed application for VLOS Authorisations in the Specific Category. The Specific Category allows more freedom to operate in all areas and with less restriction than regulation requires in the Open Category. 

The course includes,

1. Two-Day Live Webinar Ground-School. (0900 - 1630 Daily).
2. Pilot Practical Flight Assessment. 
3. Guidance on EU STS/PDRA & Authorisation applications for the Specific Category

Important: After you ENROLL on the course, please take the first short lesson online. Within this lesson you will be able to book your preferred live webinar date. See timers to the right of this panel for details on dates. Thank You.   


See the FAQ Guide below for more detail. 
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Course: Wed 25th & Thur 26th November 2020 
Course: Thur 10th & Fri 11th December 2020 
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What's included?

  • 9 Lesson Topics
  • 1 Certification
  • 4 PDFs
  • 60 Questions

Specific Operations 

A UAS Operator with a permission to conduct drone operations in the Specific Category must use Remote Pilots who meet minimum competency standards. This VLOS course covers the legal requirements for pilot competency in the Specific Category. 

Our Guarantee

 With this course Safe Drone Academy continue their renowned teaching methodology, making complex UAS and drone theory and procedures easy to understand. 
kind words by Our students
"A company established by two Aviation professionals and run to the highest standards. Making the decision to undertake our training as a group of Civil Engineering /Surveying / Management Lecturers would mean that we would have to be given a solid foundation in IAA procedure. Safe Drone did just that and reinforced the training with study material second to none. The course covered all these subjects and a great deal more . The Study material is excellent , the structure of the course is all encompassing and the Instructors are 10,000 hrs ++ professionals . One of the most enjoyable and interesting professional courses I have ever attended"
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Jonathan Blackmore B.Sc (Hons) M.Sc MSCSI MRICS Lecturer Chartered Surveyor
"Excellent course and very comprehensive. I've been flying for 4 years and had picked up a lot of bad habits so this course was invaluable to me. It fits a lot in to the 2 days and I found the third test day even more rewarding. Safe drone create a great awareness of overall safety and start you on the right road to a safety culture. They seem to like feedback and it's nice to have backup and an open door to ask questions afterwards. I'd highly recommend it and I found it great value for money. Thanks again to Mark and all the crew there"
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Paschal Cassidy, Sugartown Films
"I can't emphasize enough what amazing service Mark at Safe Drone provided to our company. With a short deadline for gaining regulatory approval in Ireland for an upcoming customer, Mark worked quickly to review our UAS program and gave us direct steps towards compliance. Excellent communications through the process made this process smooth and straightforward. I would recommend Safe Drone to anyone hoping to work in Ireland in the UAS industry!"
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Jason McNally, SkySpecs USA
"I am so excited to have just completed the 2 Day IAA SUA Ground School with Safe Drone. I have to say it was such a pleasure to be trained by Mark. The course was something I needed to do as I wanted to start flying my drone commercially and under the letter of the law. I found the course very easy to follow, exceptionally informative and I have taken away a clear understanding of my responsibilities with the planning and implementation of procedures with every planned flight going forward. I would highly recommend taking this course to anyone looking to become a better, safer and more responsible drone pilot"
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Fred Kelly, 

Frequently Asked Questions

What must I do to complete this Specific Category Pilot Competency Course? 

This course requires you to,

  • Complete the 2-day theory course. 

  • Complete a Practical Flight Assessment. 


additionally,

  • Guidance will be provided on applying for an Operator permission including Operations Manual templates.
  • Guidance will be provided on registering as an Operator. 


2 Day Theory Course. 
 - The theory course complies with the requirement of EU regulation for Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) flying in the Specific Category. 
 - Additional 'bolt on courses' will be available shortly to further enhance your pilot permission e.g BVLOS. 
 - The course is instructor-centered and is delivered over live webinar. 
 - Course dates are as advertised. Take the first lesson online and at the end of this short lesson book you place on the live webinar of your choice. 

Practical Flight Assessment. 
 - Once you have completed the Theory Course you will be invited to complete you practical flight assessment
 - Practical Flight Assessments are conducted in Counties Meath, Kildare and Kilkenny. 
 - Full guidance on what to expect during the flight assessment is provided during the live webinar course. 

What is the daily course schedule? 

0900 - 1630 Daily. 

Usual breaks for tea/coffee and lunch. 

When is the next course? 

This course is delivered through live webinar with a Safe Drone Academy instructor. As such, particlaur dates are scheduled to run the course. At the top of this page you will see our currently scheduled courses with count down timers.  

How do I book a particular course date? 

Very simple.

Once you have enrolled and paid for a course you, will be able to take the online introductory lesson. At the end of this lesson you can choose to register on one of the scheduled live webinar training dates. Just select the date you require. 

What is the Course Price? 

The course price is €649 if payed in full or €679 if paid over 3 monthly installments (€299 1st Month, €190 2nd Month, €190 3rd Month).

Payments are completed with our online payment provider (Stripe). Safe Drone Academy will never have access to, or store, your card details. All payments details are highly secured with appropriate security certificates. 

On the payment plan, you can start the course after your initial payment. We will simply and automatically bill your card for the remaining two payments over the following two months. No paperwork or lengthy credit arrangements. 

What are the Open, Specific and Certified Categories? 

EU regulation divides drone operations into 3 main categories.

  • The Open Category is for low risk operations.

  • The Specific Category is for medium to high risk operations.
  • The Certified Category is for the highest risk operations.
Depending on the risk your flying poses to those around you, a pilot will need to train to operate in one of the 3 categories. The higher the risk the more training the pilot requires.

This course covers the legal requirements a pilot needs to fly in the Specific Category. 

See Regulation (EU) 2019/947 for guidance.  

How do I determine which category I fall under: Open, Specific or Certified?  

If you find the below requirements of the Open category too restrictive, then you need permission to fly in the Specific Category. The Certified Category is not currently used. 

A drone can be operated in the “Open" category when it:
  • bears one of the CE class marks 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Note: not currently available on the market);
or
  • is privately built and with a max take-off weight of <25kg;
or
  • it is purchased before the 1st of January 2023, with no CE class marking with a max take-off weight of <25kg;
and
  • will not be operated directly over 'uninvolved persons', unless it bears a CE class mark '0' or is lighter than 250g. (Please refer to subcategories of operations: A1, A2 and A3 to find out where you can fly with your drone).
  • will never be flown over 'assemblies of people' (see FAQ further down for definition).
  • will be flown in Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) by the pilot or be assisted by a UA observer;
  • is flown at no more than 120 metres above the closest point of the surface;
  • will not carry dangerous goods and not drop any material.
  • remains outside the required 'geographic area'. See Safe Drone Airspace Map (Airspace Map). Also, see additional FAQ.

What is a pilot allowed do in the Specific Category? 

The Specific Category is a category of drone operation under the new EU drone regulation. This category caters for the medium to high risk or more complex drone operations that are forbidden in the Open Category.  

What this practically means is that suitably qualified pilots will be allowed, 

  • fly in 'geographic areas' normally forbidden or limited to drones in the Open category (see Safe Drone Academy Airspace map for areas a Specific Category permission is required https://safedrone.ie/airspace-map/).


  • fly with less restriction than that imposed by the new EU Open Category.

Example.

- Fly drones heavier than 500g closer than 50m horizontally from 'uninvolved persons'.
- Fly drones heavier drones overhead 'uninvolved persons'
- Fly drones heavier than 25kgs.
- Fly Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS).
- Fly Beyond Line of Sight Operations (BVLOS).
- Drop cargo from drones. 

  • attain full commercial public liability insurance. 

What is the Pilot Competency Certificate (PCC)? 

When a UAS Operator needs to fly in the Specific Category they are required to use a Remote Pilot who meets a minimum competency standard. Safe Drone Academy's syllabus meets the EU requirement for Specific Category pilot competency as it complies with the requirements of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) guidance on Remote Pilot competency standards. In Ireland, this standard is demonstrated as achieved when a Remote Pilot is awarded the Pilot Competency Certificate (PCC). This competency is recognised throughout the EU. 

Who or What is an Operator? 

By EU definition a UAS Operator 'means any legal or natural person operating or intending to operate one or more UAS'. What this actually means is a person, sole trader, limited company, partnership, research body, academic agency or other legal entity that wants permission to operate drones. 

A UAS Operator may wish to operate drones both for commercial and recreational purposes. 

You can be both a drone operator and a remote pilot if you are also the person that actually flies the drone. In this case you should register as an Operator.

However, it can be the case where you are the remote pilot without being a drone operator. For example, if you are a remote pilot working for a company that provides services with drones, the company is the drone operator and you are the remote pilot. The company needs to register as a drone operator. You, the remote pilot, need to complete the minimum amount of training in the category you will fly. Like an airline operator, a drone operator can have many remote pilots flying for them.

If you bought a drone to fly it in your leisure time, you are both the drone operator and the remote pilot. You must register as a drone operator.

If you bought a drone to give away as a gift, the person who will receive the gift and then fly the drone will be the drone operator and the remote pilot.

Who is the Remote Pilot 

By EU definition a Remote Pilot (RP) means 'a natural person responsible for safely conducting the flight of a UA by operating its flight controls, either manually or, when the UA flies automatically, by monitoring its course and remaining able to intervene and change its course at any time'.

The remote pilot can either manually control the drone or monitor the drone if it is flying on auto-pilot. The remote pilot must always be ready to take control in case the drone goes out of control or a situation requires the remote pilots intervention. The RP is responsible for all the actions and outcomes of the flight. 

A UAS Operator is the entity with permission to operate a drone but the RP physically conducts the flying. A one man operation can be both the Operator and the RP. 

Example 1: I am a Sole Trader. I wish to operate in the Specific Category. I must Register as a UAS Operator and get a permission from the aviation authority to operate in the Specific Category. I must then take pilot training to meet the minimum pilot competency standard to operate as a RP in the Specific Category. 

Example 2: I run a business. My business needs to operate drones with the least restriction possible and so it must operate in the Specific Category. I register my business as an Operator get a permission from the aviation authority allowing my business operate in the Specific Category. I have 4 staff members who will complete the actual flying for my business. I must send all 4 of these staff members to take the required pilot competency training allowing them operate as RP's in the Specific Category.  

How does a UAS Operator get permission to fly in the Specific Category? 

To acquire a permission to operate in the Specific Category a UAS operator must demonstrate they can implement approved operating procedures. There are three ways a UAS Operator can apply. Each method requires more competence on the part of the UAS Operator.  

1. Standard Scenario (STS)
2. Pre-Defined Risk Assessment (PDRA)
3. Authorisation

A requirement of all 3 methods will be the use of Remote Pilots (RPs) who have met the minimum competency standard, ie in the Specific Category the Pilot Competency Certificate. 

What is A Standard Scenario (STS)? 

These scenarios allow a UAS Operator conduct relatively low risk operations in the Specific Category. An operator simple 'declares' to the aviation authority they can meet a rigid 'cookbook recipe' style list of operating procedures. The UAS Operator makes a 'declaration' to the aviation authority that it will apply the scenario’s listed mitigating measures when conducting this type of operation. STS are based on law and are published by regulation (Reg (EU) 2020/639). 

There are currently two (2) Standard Scenarios published.

1. STS01: VLOS over a controlled ground area in a populated environment.
2. STS02: BVLOS with Airspace Observers over a controlled ground area in a sparsely populated environment.

When an operator wishes to conduct operations under a STS, they must use a pilot who has a permission to fly in the Specific Category. A pilot completing this course meets this requirement.

Note: A requirement of these scenarios is they require that a certain CE Class of drone must be used, CE Class 5 for STS01 and CE Class 6 for STS02. Currently there is no CE Class 5 or 6 drone on the market. Therefore the Standard Scenario is not currently usable. Operators will need to move to the next level, the Pre-Defined Risk Assessment (PDRA).

What is A Pre-Defined Risk Assessment (PDRA)? 

The PDRA is less rigid than the STS but also describes operations that can be conducted within certain boundaries. Like the STS, a UAS Operator will put together a set of Operating Procedures guided by and within the bounds of the requirements of the PDRA. Unlike the STS the UAS Operator will have a little more flexibility in how  operating procedures are implemented, for example using the non CE Class drones that are required by the Standard Scenarios . The basic PDRA is based on a risk assessment written by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  

When submitting an application to operate in compliance with a PDRA, a UAS Operator will submit a proposal, including an Operations Manual, to the aviation authority and seek an 'authorisation' to conduct medium risk operations in compliance with the PDRA. The Aviation authority will take a decision on whether to grant the 'authorisation' or not based on the contents of the proposal.  

A number of PDRA are proposed. In some cases they mirror exactly an STS but allow use of non CE Class drones. This means you can use your current drone (e.g . DJI) when conducting these operations and they will allow you more scope of operation than the Open Category. It is expected many commercial UAS Operators will use the PDRA process when applying to the aviation authorities for 'authorisation' to operate in the Specific Category. 

1. PDRA S01:  VLOS over a controlled ground area in a populated environment (Non CE Class Drone).
2. PDRA S01:  BVLOS with Airspace Observers over a controlled ground area in a sparsely populated environment (Non CE Class Drone).
3. PDRA G01: BVLOS Operations upto 150m agl in Uncontrolled Airspace and Sparsely Populated Area. 
4. PDRA G02: BVLOS Operations upto 150m agl in Uncontrolled Airspace with no Airspace Observer in Reserved Airspace. 

When an operator wishes to conduct operations under a PDRA,  they must use a pilot who has a permission to fly in the Specific Category. A pilot completing this course meets this requirement. 

Safe Drone Academy can help with applications for PDRA and can provide Operations Manual templates. 


What is a Authorisation? 

An 'authorisation' is a permission from an aviation authority a UAS Operator requires to operate in the Specific Category when they need to conduct operations that are not covered by Standard Scenarios.

The permission allowed is based on the scope of the PDRA, or if a PDRA does not adequately cover the Operators requirements, they can submit a risk assessment for the operation they wish to conduct.  

This Risk Assessment must comply with the requirements of Article 11 of Regulation (EU) 2019/947. This can be achieved using EASA's Specific Operating Risk Assessment (SORA) tool. Following completion of the SORA process, the outcome can be submitted to the aviation authority for their assessment. If they agree with your proposal they can issue you with an 'authorisation' to conduct your drone operation. 

When an operator wishes to conduct operations under an 'authorisation', they must use a pilot who has a permission to fly in the Specific Category. A pilot completing this course meets this requirement. 

How long is my 'Pilot Competency Certificate' valid for? 

The Pilot Competency Certificate is valid for 5 years.

How do I re-validate my Pilot Competency Certificate? 

There are two scenarios, 

Scenario 1: Re-validation before the expiry date of the PCC:
  • Take the short online refresher theory course.
  • Conduct the Practical Flying Assessment. 

Scenario 2: Re-validation after the expiry date of the PCC:
  • Complete the entire PCC theory course. 
  • Re-validation before the expiry date of the PCC

Can I fly wherever I like when operating in the Specific Category? 

Yes, within reason, but with far more permission than Open Category pilots. 

A pilot qualified to fly in the Specific Category may fly in almost all 'geographic areas' not completely denied to drones (eg overflying some security installations). 

Some locations require that you advise controlling authorities that you are flying e.g. Air Traffic Control, Prison Service, Military, but in general this permission is achievable by Specific Category pilots. 

The most powerful permission a Specific Category drone pilot has is a permission to fly in Controlled Airspace. 

Check out Safe Drone Academy's airspace map to see Controlled Airspace and other locations that are out of bounds to Open Category pilots. 

Does this course allow me fly in other EU member states? 

This course meets the EU requirements for flying Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) operations in the Specific Category. As such it will allow you fly Specific Operations in other EU countries. 

Unlike the Open category however, due to the increased risk and complexity of Specific Category operations, an operator and pilot wishing to fly in another EU member state must advise the other member state of their intention to conduct Specific Category operations prior to commencing them.  

Do I need to register? 

Drones do not need to be registered but you, as a drone operator/owner, must register yourself or your business. You do so with the Aviation Authority of the EU country you have a residence in. Registration is required under Atricle 14 of Regulation (EU) 2019/947.

You register once, independently of how many drones you operate or whether you operate in the Open or Specific category. Your registration will be valid for a period defined by your national Aviation Authority after which you need to renew it. In Ireland, registration is valid for two (2) years.

See FAQ 'Who is a drone operator' for detailed explanation as to who an operator is.

You do not need to register yourself if your drone(s):

  • weighs less than 250g and has no camera or other sensor able to detect personal data; or
  • even with a camera or other sensor, weighs less than 250g, but is a toy (this means that its documentation shows that it complies with ‘toy’ Directive 2009/48/EC);

Operator registration can be completed on the IAAs website www.mysrs.ie.

When you register you will receive an individual 'Operator Registration Number'. This number must be displayed on every drone you as an operator utilise (own or lease/rent). The number must be easily readable and may take the form of a QR code. Affixing the label to the inside of a battery compartment is also acceptable where it cannot be clearly displayed externally.

Are there any age restrictions for operating in the Open Category?

The minimum age is 16 years for remote pilots in the Open and Specific categories when flying by themselves (solo). There is no minimum age if the remote pilot is being supervised by another suitably qualified remote pilot who is 16 years or older.

Some aviation authorities across the EU may have lower age limits. In Ireland the minimum age is 16.

There is no minimum age for flying CE Class C0 marked drones, when they become available, under subcategory A1.

Course Syllabus

Meet the instructor

Mark Prendergast

Mark is our founder and Head of Training. A veteran of aviation, Mark has 25 years of manned aviation experience in both the military and commercial aviation fields. He is currently an Airbus A320 Captain with Ireland's national airline, Aer Lingus. He has been involved with 'drones as a service' businesses since 2014 and has been a drone instructor and flight test examiner with the IAA since 2015. His unmanned and drone pedigree is second to none. You are in great hands with Mark guiding you on your drone journey. 

Mark Prendergast - Course Author

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