The Chinese drone manufacturer Holy Stone has launched the first drone with a C1 label. However, the Holy Stone drone does not meet the new product requirements for a drone with a C1 label, such as the ability to broadcast the user’s operator number and load zoning into memory. The label, therefore, causes confusion among customers.
2023: Cx label mandatory
From January 1, 2023, all drones sold in the EU must meet new product requirements. Depending in part on the weight of the drone, it is given a certain classification: the so-called Cx label. The lightest drones (up to 250 grams) receive a C0 label, for drones up to 900 grams there is the C1 label. Above that are the C2, C3, and C4 labels.
The European Regulation 2019/945 sets out the exact requirements for drones. Think of the possibility to broadcast the operator number of the drone pilot (Remote ID) or to load the current list of no-fly zones into memory (geofencing). However, the technical specifications of these requirements have not yet been established. This means that drone manufacturers cannot yet assign a Cx label to their drones.
First ‘C1-class’ drone from Holy Stone?
Nevertheless, the first drone with a C1 label has now appeared on the market. It concerns the HS720E GPS drone with a 4K camera. At first glance, the drone offers many features, including image stabilization, GPS positioning, return to home, and a follow-me mode. And on the underside of the drone is the coveted C1 classification, which would mean that you could fly with this drone above buildings and near people, even after 1-1-2023.
There is, however, a catch. The drone offers no support at all for remote identification, and there is also no provision for geofencing. Such features are part of the package of product requirements that are imposed on drones with a C1 label. This means that the C1 label has been affixed in violation of the European regulation.
On Amazon, a German buyer complains about the misleading classification:
“By law, for C1 (classification is even on the bottom of the drone) this MUST have remote identification and geo-awareness…. But neither does the HS720E! I, therefore, assume that this drone is not allowed under the Drone Regulation. [..] I returned the drone because I’m not legally sure if you can fly this HS720E….”
When asked, a Holy Stone representative states that the drone simply complies with the regulations.
“In fact, all our products are in compliance with laws and regulations. One thing you should know is that when the weight of the drone exceeds 250g, you need to register to use it. The external ID is currently unavailable, but this will not affect usage. I hope you understand that drones have been sold in your area for years. You can rest assured that all our products are covered by warranty.” And in a second response: “We will pass your feedback on to the product development department and add it to future batches.”
The situation even more unclear
The question now is how EASA or the European Commission will respond to a drone manufacturer placing a Cx label on its own initiative. In any case, the situation is not getting any clearer for both consumers and enforcers. Now, this is just one example, but who knows how many models will be delivered in the near future with an incorrect classification, whether or not via parallel imports that are difficult to trace.
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