Home Blog articles Transponder: the point in view of the European drone regulation

Transponder: the point in view of the European drone regulation

by Fabio Affortunato
Transponder Drone Normativa
Reading time / Tempo lettura : 3 minutes / minuti


We are ever closer to the fateful 31/12/2020 (or rather to 01.01.21 because I challenge those who will go around flying with the drone on 31/12/2020), and among the obligations deriving from the entry into force of the European drone regulation (also known as EASA regulation), there is an obligation to mount the transponder on the drone. So let’s take stock also on this topic and understand if and for which drones the electronic remote identification device must be used.

Transponder for drones: what is it?

The drone transponder is an electronic identification device which, according to the European drone regulation, must be installed on all drones weighing more than 249 grams (therefore not in the case of the DJI Mini 2). The purpose of the transponder is therefore to transmit all the drone data in real time (drone position, pilot position, telemetry and drone identification, etc.), via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi with an open protocol that can be read by tablets and smartphones.

In fact, as the ENAC amendment 1 of July 14 states:

As of January 1, 2021, the APR with a mass equal to or greater than 250 grams must be
equipped with an electronic identification system that allows for timely transmission
real data relating to the APR, the operator and / or owner and the essential flight data, as well as the
registration of the same according to the characteristics contained in the Regulations of the
Commission (EC) 2019/947 “(Source ENAC)

However, there are two very important aspects to consider:

  1. the technical specifications of the transponder have never been notified, so it is effectively impossible to install the transponder;
  2. even more important, the ENAC standard reported above as of 1 January 2021 is null as the ENAC regulation replaces the European one on drones 2019/947 (Implementing regulation (UE) 2020/947).

But is the transponder mandatory or not?

Like all regulations, even those on drones, even if they are European, must always be well read and interpreted (blessed mathematics where 2 + 2 = 4 without interpretation).

Let’s say immediately that the drones belonging to the “Open” category (see blog article “EASA European Regulation Drones – Open Catg.“), with class marking class C1, C2, C3 have the obligation to mount the transponder. The same applies to drones belonging to the “Specific” category (see the blog article “EASA European Regulation Drones – Category Specific“), starting from 2.12.2021.

So it is certain that in fact the transponder is mandatory for those drones that have CE class marking. However, as we all know, the drones that currently fly are not CE-marked.

According to article 20 of the European regulation on drones 2019/947, relating to drones that do not comply with the European regulation 2019/945 (which establishes the compliance of drones and which contains the rules and provisions relating to the CE marking), yes has the direct consequence that drones built before 01/01/2023 can continue to fly without transponders.

Transponder for certain flight areas

Having therefore established that the transponder will be necessary for drones with CE marking, and not for current drones, it may be necessary for some pilots operating in restricted flight areas to equip their drone with transponders.

This apparent anachronism and contrast with what is reported above derives from the fact that ENAC manages the flight areas (through d-flight) and, for some of them, it may require the transponder (e.g. due to proximity to airports). However, it is clear that the obligation is more possible for pilots who carry out critical operations subject to authorizations by the ENAC.

However, it is important to report that in the cartography managed through the d-flight portal there are no defined flight areas subject to the use of transponder.

Transponder Take away

  • Drones belonging to the “Open” category, with class C1, C2, C3 marking class are required to mount the transponder. The same applies to drones belonging to the “Specific” category starting from 2.12.2021.
  • According to article 20 of the European regulation on drones 2019/947, relating to drones that do not comply with the European regulation 2019/945 (which establishes the compliance of drones and which contains the rules and provisions relating to the CE class marking), yes has the direct consequence that drones built before 01/01/2023 can continue to fly without transponder.
  • ENAC (In italy), may require the presence of the transponder on the drone for pilots operating in flight areas subject to restrictions. It is important to check that in the cartography on the d-flight portal the flight area in which you have to operate is not subject to the use of transponders.

Note regarding the images: The basic cover image, reworked by 4mydrone is taken from pixabay.com, free for commercial use and without attribution request – Author StockSnap. The use of the images is exclusively for the purpose of a better understanding of the contents of the article.

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Last Updated on/Ultimo aggiornamento – 14/12/2020

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