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APR Pilot, SAPR Operator and Client

by Fabio Affortunato
Pilota Apr Operatore Sapr Committente
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UAVs Regulations – APR Pilot, SAPR Operator

The ENAC Ed.3 regulation relating to remotely piloted aircraft refers to two professional figures: APR pilot and SAPR operator. To complicate matters, to be precise, there is also a third figure the Client.

These three figures, with specific roles and responsibilities, often generate confusion. But who are these professionals and how are they linked to each other, and above all, what if two professional figures converge on one person? The purpose of this article is to make a minimum of clarity.

APR and SAPR – The basics

In order to avoid misunderstandings and misunderstandings, it is good to first recall the meaning of the acronyms APR and SAPR (see also Drones – Acronyms & Terms).


The acronym APR stands for Remote Piloted Aircraft, it is the drone in the physical sense, or the drone without the remote control. The definition given to the APR by ENAC is as follows:

“APR is the acronym for Remote Piloted Aircraft, that is, a remotely piloted aircraft without people on board, not used for recreational and sporting purposes.” (Source ENAC)


The term SAPR is the Italian acronym used to indicate a Remote Piloted Aircraft System.

To fully understand its meaning, you need to focus on the word System. In fact, the presence of this term indicates a set of “components” – drone, radio control, Ground station – which together constitute the system and define it. The definition given to SAPR by ENAC is the following:

SAPR is the acronym for Remote Piloted Aircraft System, that is, a system consisting of an airplane (remote piloted aircraft) without people on board, used for purposes other than recreational and sporting purposes, and the related components necessary for control and command (control station) by a remote pilot. ” (Source ENAC)

APR pilot, SAPR operator and Client

Before analyzing the possible links and intertwining of responsibility between the different figures, it is first necessary to understand the functions of each professional figure.

APR (UAV) pilot

The APR pilot is the professional figure, in possession of a certificate for non-critical operations, or for critical operations, responsible for the remote piloting of the APR or the drone. The APR pilot is therefore the one who has full responsibility for the flight and its safety.

Pilota Apr

APR Pilot – Photo taken from  pixabay.com – free for commercial use – Author Lukas Bieri

SAPR Operator

The SAPR operator (and not APR!) Is the professional figure who assumes the responsibilities that derive from the regulations in force. The SAPR operator is therefore the entrepreneur or employer who assumes all the responsibilities and risks arising from the activities as a legal figure. In other words, the SAPR operator is the entrepreneur or the one who carries out an organized economic activity for the purpose of producing or exchanging goods and services with other subjects.

Operatore Sapr

SAPR Operator – Photo taken from pixabay.com – free for commercial use – Autore FreePhotos


By Client, we mean the person who commissions the work, or the activity to be carried out with the APR. The Customer is therefore the final user of the service offered by the SAPR operator.

APR pilot responsibility, SAPR Operator

At the head of the two figures described above, there are precise responsibilities that we will see shortly.

However, it is good to highlight that the ENAC Ed.3 regulation highlights a non-marginal aspect, which consists in considering the SAPR operator as the fulcrum of responsibilities and competences for the performance of the service activity with SAPR.

Although explicitly referring to this “assumption” in the ENAC regulation, in reality we know that the figures of APR pilot and SAPR operator can coincide in the vast majority of cases.

APR Pilot responsibility

The APR pilot has the following responsibilities:

  • be in possession of valid certificates (non-critical and / or critical operations),
  • be responsible for the APR flight from take-off to landing, from pre-post flight checks and to SAPR custody (APR + remote control),
  • be responsible for the safety of flight operations,
  • comply with flight rules and regulations,
  • compilation of flight logs, etc.

SAPR operator responsibility

According to both the regulation and the various circulars, the following responsibilities are the responsibility of the SAPR operator:

  • have a technical and operational organization suitable for the SAPR operator activity to be carried out,
  • the registration of the drone (s), its insurance and maintenance,
    organization of flight activities,
  • preparation of flight and maintenance manuals,
  • acquisition of authorizations including critical operations,
  • verification of the pilot’s qualifications,
  • choice of flight areas,
  • specific risk assessment in a critical area,
  • prevention of illegal acts during and after operations (protection of radio link interference, protection of the APR and purchase data),
  • prevent access by unauthorized personnel to the area of ​​operations.

From the above it is therefore clear that the responsibility of the SAPR operator is of the EndtoEnd type.

Although the regulation identifies the two figures as two distinct and separate entities, no mention is made of such that it excludes the possibility that the APR pilot and SAPR Operator figures “coincide”, which, as already mentioned, often occurs in practice.

So if the pilot lends his skills and competences by putting them at the service of the operator, and if the two figures – APR pilot and SAPR operator, do not coincide, there is a subordinate hierarchical relationship between them. The pilot is therefore the performer of the flight activities and the operator is placed in a step above the pilot.

If, on the other hand, the two figures coincide, the responsibility of the APR pilot  – SAPR operator will cumulate all the responsibilities provided for by the regulations.

Responsibility of the client

The client, i.e. the one who commissions the work, is not exempt from liability. These responsibilities derive from the contract stipulated between the SAPR operator and the client, where the parties define their respective responsibilities for the operations to be carried out, with related limitations, including the protection of personal data (Art. 34 of ENAC the regulation).


The figures of APR pilot and SAPR operator, whether represented by his different natural persons or coinciding in a single physical entity, have specific obligations and duties. The accumulation of the same in a single entity therefore implies greater attention and careful organization of all the phases relating to an operation. The separation of roles into two separate entities allows greater control of one figure than the other. In any case, all aspects required by law must always be satisfied.

Note: The article and its contents are therefore for reference only. No one should therefore feel compelled to act on the basis of the information provided without in-depth professional legal advice.

Note regardinf the images: The images in the post are taken from pixabay.com, they are free for commercial use, with no attribution request. However, each image mentions the author who is its legitimate owner. The use of images has the exclusive purpose of better understanding the contents of the article. The featured image is from pixabay.com and the author is StartupStockPhotos.

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Last Updated on/Ultimo aggiornamento – 28/07/2020

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