Drones – or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), as they are called in technical jargon – have been used for military and scientific purposes for some time. Now the trend is moving towards their recreational use. However, as the use of drones is increasing, so are the demands for their safe operation. TÜV SÜD has now developed a testing programme for leisure drones which consolidates the EU regulatory requirements and thus adds safety to this booming segment.
In many member states of the European Union, aircraft – irrespective of their weight and use – are governed by aviation law. In Germany, they fall under the scope of the German Aviation Regulation (Luftverkehrs-Ordnung, LuftVO). According to the present interpretation of the LuftVO, electrically powered (multicopter) drones with a total weight less than 5 kilograms fall under the same category as model aircraft, provided they are used exclusively for sports and leisure activities. Given this, these drones currently do not have to meet any drone-specific "technical" requirements and also do not require permission to fly by the responsible German state authorities. However, the use of these products is subject to strict rules, including a maximum flying altitude of 100 metres, a minimum distance of 1.5 kilometres from airports, operation within sight of the controlling person and taking out of third-party liability insurance. The only models exempted from the regulations of the LuftVO are (children's) toys – very small and simple helicopters and multicopter drones without camera. They fall under the scope of the European Toy Directive 2009/48/EC.
First drone testing programme TÜV SÜD has now developed the first drone testing programme, which covers all aspects of electrical and mechanical safety as well as the regulatory requirements of the specific target markets and consolidates the requirements of around 20 standards and regulatory acts. It is applicable to drones that fall into the categories of both toys and leisure aircraft and do not weigh more than 5 kg. Asli Solmaz-Kaiser, Global Head of Electrical and Electronics (ENE), TÜV SÜD Product Service, explains, “When manufacturers bring innovative products to consumers, ensuring the safety of these products is of particular importance for sustainable growth in this sector of industry. By providing their in-depth technological expertise and familiarity with the international regulations, TÜV SÜD supports the manufacturers and operators of these products in facing this challenge. In doing so, we take into consideration not only the state of the art, but also future regulations.”
Technical and mechanical safety TÜV SÜD tests and inspects drones for a host of aspects, specifically electrical safety including battery safety, mechanical safety, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), radio interference and hazardous substances. The experts require the devices to include constructive measures that provide protection from the risk of mechanical injury, particularly critical eye injuries caused by rotors or injuries caused by high-speed collision with people. Manufacturers must ensure a level of protection commensurate with the severity of the potential injury. Protective measures can range from simple mechanical solutions, such as stable rotor guards, to high-tech electronic solutions for collision avoidance. Worst-case conditions such as weak batteries or radio-connection problems must naturally also be taken into consideration. Another important element of testing is the instruction manual, which includes valuable information on the correct use of the aircraft.