The DJI Mavic 3 has just been given a significant certificate that will loosen the restrictions on where you can fly the drone in the EU – and other DJI drones are likely to follow suit.
The DJI Mavic 3 has been granted the first ‘C1’ certificate for flying in the EU, which owners will be able to request via a firmware update later this year. This is big news for owners of that drone, but also an important landmark for all current and future DJI drones.
The CE Class certificates are part of new European Drone Laws that actually started in December 2020, allowing drones with the new labels (ranging from C0-C4, depending on the drone) to benefit from greater flying freedoms. Unfortunately, the standards for those certificates still hadn’t been set in 2022, which left most current drones in limbo – until now.
For Mavic 3 owners, the arrival of a ‘C1’ certificate will bring a few immediate benefits. Following the update, you’ll be able to fly the drone in the new ‘A1 Open Category’, which means being able to fly over people (if not “assemblies of people”, like sports teams), instead of having to keep a minimum distance of 50m. You also won’t need the pricey A2 remote pilot certificate, just the basic ‘proof of competence’ theory pass.
But the advantages compared to a similar drone with no CE Class marking really kick in after December 31st 2023. From that date, upgraded Mavic 3 drones will be able to carry on flying in the A1 Open Category, rather than getting bumped down to the A3 Open Categories. The latter would have restricted you to flying in areas free from people and at least 150 meters away from properties.
Naturally, this new C1-compliant firmware will make a few changes to the Mavic 3, which DJI says can’t be reversed and will kick in whenever it’s flown in the European Economic Area (EEA). This is why DJI has made the “application process” for the new C1 class label, which it says will open “from Q4 2022”, voluntary rather than mandatory.
These changes include ActiveTrack subject-tracking being automatically disabled when filming people or objects from over 50m away, and the drone’s LEDs being turned on or off automatically during fight depending on the environment. The LEDs on the drone’s front arms will also blink by default whenever it’s turned on, and the Mavic 3 will meet a noise reduction level of 83db too.
The bigger question, though, is whether the new CE Class markings will come to DJI’s other drones, such as the DJI Air 2S, Mavic Air 2 and DJI FPV? DJI wasn’t able to say for sure. It said that “in addition to the C1 certification for the Mavic 3 series, DJI is committed to complying with the new European Drone Regulation for other existing and future drone models, and it will work with notified bodies to obtain additional drone certificates over the coming years”.
While that’s a bit non-committal, there are good reasons to believe this is the start of a process that’ll finally see all current DJI drones get the CE Class markings we’ve been waiting years for.
Analysis: DJI drones escape a looming dark cloud
This long-awaited update for the DJI Mavic 3 answers one of the big questions surrounding DJI’s drones in the EU – will it be possible for them to get new CE Class markings via a firmware update, or would they need a more complex hardware update to qualify?
For the Mavic 3, the answer is that a simple firmware update is all it’ll need – and that’s great news for owners of that drone or prospective buyers. But what about other DJI drones?
While DJI couldn’t comment, a source did tell us that the company has been aware of the European Drone Regulation’s requirements for the new CE Class markings during the making of all of its current drones. This means it’s very likely that other models will be able to follow the Mavic 3’s lead and gain their certification via a firmware update, rather than a hardware fix.
The issue has been less pressing for sub-250g drones like the DJI Mini 3 Pro and DJI Mini 2, as these will be able to continue flying in the A1 subcategory from 2024 onwards, even without the new CE Class markings. But those two drones will likely qualify for the so-called C0 Class, which lets you fly over people (including “uninvolved” ones) as long as it isn’t a large group.
While the EU drone laws do remain pretty complex, this DJI Mavic 3 news is the start of a much-needed process of simplification that marks the end of a long limbo period – and should soon make it possible to buy the best drones, from DJI or otherwise, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be struck down by future restrictions.