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Home✈️Aircraft🚁HelicopterHelicopter Main Discussion › Join me in my journey to get a R/C helicopter certified for commercial use in Europe
06-18-2009 08:42 AM  11 years ago
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Rocam

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Belgium

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Join me in my journey to get a R/C helicopter certified for commercial use in Europe
Hi,

I'm setting up a commercial rotorcraft UAV business in Belgium and in order to get all restrictiona waived, I need to get the helicopter certified amongst hundreds of other items to comply with.

In this post I will tell you about my progress on a regular bases.

Over the last 6 months I have carried out a market study and have found sufficient potential to warrant this start-up. Apart from the marketing side, there are two major elements in this business that will require a lot of attention: legal and technical. The two go hand in hand and will be my focus areas in this post.

In addition, the legal requirements are changing dramatically because it now becomes clear to the regulating bodies that UAV's are here to stay and because there is no precedent, the tendency is to be over regulating. Time will tell if that was the right thing to do.

I hope that by doing this I will inspire others and make the story a bit clearer. Despite the fact that forums are stacked with posts about AV or AP, only a handfull have succeeded in setting up a profitable business.

On a final note: I acknowledge the fact that the European situation might differ from the situation in the US, UK, Canada, Australia or any other area in the world for that matter but this post might nevertheless indicate a direction.

Happy reading!
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06-18-2009 09:08 AM  11 years ago
Rocam

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Belgium

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Legal requirements: the search for answers
I started poking the Belgian DGLV (equivalent to the US FAA and UK CAA) a couple of months ago and found out that at present, there is no legal framework that governs the use of rotorcraft UAV in Europe, let alone Belgium. As a result, each country needs to decide how to process such requests.
The text that governs the use of model aircraft is not applicable to this business because the aircraft are not allowed to fly outside designated areas. As a result, my helicopter will be treated as an VLR (Very Light Rotorcraft).
Once this was established, the following applied:

Article 8 (pilotless aircraft)of the Chicago Convention states: 'No aircraft capable of being flown without a pilot over the territory of a contracting State without special authorization by that State and in accordance with the terms of such authorization. Each contracting State undertakes to insure that the flight of such aircraft without a pilot in regions open to civil aircraft shall be so controlled as to obviate danger to civil aircraft'.

In other words: every State can decide what is required for such flights to be carried out over its territory.

Typically for Belgium, all aircraft flying in Belgian airspace require:

- Proof of registration
- Airworthiness certificate
- Pilot license for PIC (+ SIC if also required)
- Logbook
- Radio transmitter license

Depending on the use, size and area of operation, it will be decided by the DGLV whether or not certification is required.

My helicopter will weigh between 20 and 40 kg (40 and 80 lbs) and I want to fly in both uncontrolled and controlled airspace but always with the helicopter in sight.

After months of meetings, a lot of reading, lobbying and cursing, I finally received the verdict. The helicopter will need to comply with the EASA CS-VLR (Certification Specifications for Very Light Rotorcraft).

Sorry about this bone dry legal stuff but it is just part of this endeavor. From now on it becomes more interesting
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06-18-2009 09:26 AM  11 years ago
TCU

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Sounds interesting

(Subscribe)

Trex 450SE V2 // 401 + 9650 // HS65MG // DX7
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06-18-2009 09:36 AM  11 years ago
Rocam

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Belgium

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The helicopter
Because the CS-VLR is applicable to very light rotorcraft with a MTOW < 600 kg (1200 lbs), a simple design (whatever the hell that may be), able to carry not more than 2 occupants, NOTpowered by a turbine and restricted to VFR Day operations, it really is not that suitable for R/C helicopters. The reason the DGLV choose these standards is because they already existed so they didn't have to come up with something new. In a way I'm happy about that because it speeds up the process.

What I need to do next is to take out everything that is not applicable for my situation so that at the end we can reach a mutual agreement on the content after which the actual certification work can begin. That is when I have the technical file ready...

Ok, about the actual bird.
There is virtually no weight restriction so that opens a lot of possibilities; Copterworks AF25B or MoBB MovieCat come to mind. The latter carries a turbine engine so it's out.
On the other hand: when I have to go through this hassle, I'd better design my own helicopter so I can sell copies later on.

That will be the case: I will build my own. Actually, we we build our own. It's a team effort because there are people out there with far better skills.

Without the weight limitations, we opt for a reasonable size helicopter with a 3 blade rotor a Zenoah engine (2 cyl, 80cc), a helicopter mount from Copterworks and the autopilot from Carvec or DJI. The mechanics will be custom built.
Other features include a generator, 5.8 GHz video downlink with overlay, LANC camera control and depending on the certification need some audible warning signals for the pilot.
Endurance should be > 45' with full payload and max payload in the area of 10-15 kg (20-30 lbs).
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06-18-2009 09:40 AM  11 years ago
Rocam

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Belgium

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A name
I'm pretty sure there are a lot of creative people on this forum. My request: come up with a name for this new helicopter.
I suggest you PM me about it to avoid getting this topic side tracked

Thanks in advance for your cooperation!

Phil
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06-18-2009 09:54 AM  11 years ago
TCU

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So Phil just so I get a better understanding, what sort of size are we talking about here? I know you mentioned it will be a "VLR" but how long is such thing?
Trex 450SE V2 // 401 + 9650 // HS65MG // DX7
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06-18-2009 10:37 AM  11 years ago
desulli

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Poplar Bluff, MO

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Interesting topic.....subscribed.

Cant wait to see how this turns out. Be sure to include pics!!
I might not be able to fly well, but I can crash with the best of them.
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06-18-2009 10:49 AM  11 years ago
ch-47c

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san jose, ca

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Rocam,
Is the Belgian DGLV concerned that the heli will be flying amongst full-size aircraft in Controlled Airspace, the size of the heli, or that you will be flying for hire?

In the US the FAA doesn't like the fact that people are flying for hire. I think they do that as it is the easiest way to discourage anyone. Aircraft certification is one approach and pilot certification. Someone said on your previous post he would get a Private Pilot Certificate. You would need at least a Commercial Certificate.

There was a Japanese heli that had a 250cc twin engine that had GPS navigation so that it could hold a hover in I think up to 45 mph winds and could fly a preprogrammed track across the ground like cropduster over a rice paddy. It had telemetry that required a ground based van for the operator. It was a Toyota sized one in the brochure. I think it was made by Yamaha. They may have already considered and attempted certification. They are a large company and probably wouldn't have gone through the trouble to buyild such an aircraft unless there were viable markets. Just a thought.
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06-18-2009 10:54 AM  11 years ago
ch-47c

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That heli is a Yamaha and Stanford University here in Calif is working on autonomous rc heli.
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06-18-2009 02:57 PM  11 years ago
tasmanian devil

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DeSoto,Tx.

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Subscribed.I do'nt crash,I just rearrange parts.
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06-18-2009 08:53 PM  11 years ago
Sonic88

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Murfreesboro, TN

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Subscribed as well. Very interesting. Thank you for posting all the detail you have.Procrastinators of the world unite ... tomorrow.
AMA #: 912822
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06-18-2009 08:57 PM  11 years ago
Helicek

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istanbul - turkey

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Subscribed as well.
Ahmet
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06-18-2009 09:12 PM  11 years ago
Rocam

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Belgium

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TCU: rotor diameter of 2500 mm is what I'm looking at. It can be a bigger bird but the cost increase with lenghth is exponential

ch-47c: the DGLV is willing to grant access to controlled airspace if a few conditions are met. Some of these conditions are operational, some technical. The fact that the pilot needs to hold a PPL or CPL is not a requirement(yet). I'm sure that the pilot will need to demonstrate sufficient piloting skills and system knowledge as an operational item. The size of the heli is restricted by the chosen certification standards and is mainly determined by its MTOW of 1200 lbs which is far bigger than what I have in mind for now.

Not sure what you mean by 'flying for hire'. If you mean commercial operations where I get paid to carry out an assigment for a third party then that's allowed here. It was my initial question to the DGVL.

I've seen the Yamaha heli. It was intended for crop dusting and would be a good platform but a bit too expensive for the things I have in mind. All my bird needs to be is a stable camera platform with the ability to carry a professional HD cam with sufficient power for flights up to 45 minutes and within visual range at all times. This autonomous flight requests are currently the biggest deal brakers so I don't pursue that untill in the next couple of years the systems have matured and all parties start to trust the capabilities a little better.
I'm happy wth the baby steps for now
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06-18-2009 10:00 PM  11 years ago
Rocam

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Belgium

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The certification requirements part I
I read through the 74 pages today and came across a number of items that are not applicable (such as shoulder harnesses and the like) so I can forget about those. Unfortunately the remainder of the text is still quite a bit to digest

As an 'Applicant' I need to determine things like the weight limits, CG limits, empty weight, main rotor speed limits, flight performance limits,... you get the picture. As I said, not really difficult but a lot of test flying and administrational work.
The most difficult part will be the assessment of the strength requirements and things like the fatigue evaluation of the flight structure.

Another major chapter covers the Design and Construction items. One of the requirements is that each removable bolt, screw, nut, pin or other fastener whose loss could jeopardize the safe operation must incorporate two separate locking devices. The use of self-locking nuts are only approved unless a nonfriction locking device is used in addition to it.

Engine cooling systems don't escape either: when using a fan must be constructed in a way that when a blade fails, the heli can land safely with the blade contained in the fan casing.

A requirement for VLR but something I have never seen on model heli's is a rotor disconnect system that is engaged manually when the engine quits. Hopefully I can get it waived.
Another one is carburetor heating. Certainly an issue with the common VLR engines like an O320 but is that an issue with model engines as well? Who has experience flying a model helicopter in a damp environment around freezing temperatures?

Without a doubt the most interesting bit of the certification process will be the engine endurance test which calls for operating the engine at 11 different settings (called a cycle, takes 120 minutes to complete) with a minimum of 25 cycles. Each cycle mimics a flight phase. After this test, the engine has to be completely disassembled and inspected.

A lot of these requirements seem overkill and I hope I can skip a few extra and shorten tests in some areas to make it all worthwhile. That request will be the topic of my next meeting with the DGLV.
I'll keep you posted.
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06-19-2009 12:14 AM  11 years ago
VooDooX

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San Francisco Bay Area CA, US (San Mateo)

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subscribedVelocity 50 "99.9999999999999% of an atom is empty space." also 01001000 01001001
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06-19-2009 12:36 AM  11 years ago
ch-47c

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san jose, ca

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Not sure what you mean by 'flying for hire'. If you mean commercial operations where I get paid to carry out an assigment for a third party then that's allowed here. It was my initial question to the DGVL.
Yes commercial operations for a third party. The FAA has thrown that to many rc heli operators here in the US to stifle their attempts to make a viable operation.
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06-22-2009 09:39 AM  11 years ago
Rocam

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Belgium

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Sanity check!
I have spent the last weekend examining the certification requirements up close; I’ve listed all the tests and calculated the amount of time and money it would require to complete the certification process. I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t make sense business wise.

This project started as a quest to get a semi-pro helicopter certified so we would be granted access to fly into Belgium airspace and carry out commercial civil video assignments. With the decision of the DGLV to use the CS-VLR specs, the project took on a different shape. These standards are applicable for manufacturers who want to produce light rotorcraft helicopters which can carry 2 people.

So the question was whether or not we would want to alter our business plan and become a manufacturer ourselves. The answer is no.

First of all, it takes a lot more capital to enter that arena. We would face liability responsibility and would need to design a new helicopter from the ground up. The reason for that is obvious: once you get a helicopter certified, even the slightest change calls for an additional certification. In case we would use an existing helicopter model and its manufacturer decides to seize production, we would be in trouble. The dependency would be too big.

Another major issue is the market size. What would the market size be for this kind of UAV with a payload between 20 to 30 lbs and currently restricted to visual operation? In the whole of Europe and given its limited payload, I would say a couple of hundred over the next 5 years. Customers would have to pay around 30.000 USD for one (a complete set with autopilot and ground station) with a gross profit margin of roughly 10k USD.

That may seem sufficient but we would have to set up and support local dealerships (this is Europe). They would have to market and sell the helicopters, perform maintenance on them and train and sign off the pilots.
Setting up such a dealer network requires time and money and extra staff with the appropriate knowledge. We would have to translate every single document, from the user manual to the courses in 25 languages and support the dealers in their marketing efforts.

When you start to play in te major leage, you're facing some serious contenders such as BAE Systems, Textron, Boeing and Northrop Grumman to name a few.

Such a company simply cannot grow organically. We would have to look for external capital and no bank is willing to provide it. The additional capital would have to come from a Business Angel and they are looking at a 20% to 30% markup on their investment to be cahed in within a period of 5 years or less. That is if you find a Business Angel willing to participate in a project like this.

All this will let your gross profit melt away in a hurry.

So is it impossible to do it? No, I don’t think it is. But the project would need some serious rethinking. A manufacturer who wants to go through this kind of trouble wants a product with a far bigger profit margin and/or market size. The plan would call for a helicopter with a bigger payload, one that could carry a range of cameras or test/research equipment for civil use and the ability to gear it up for military use as well. Then you’re talking market potential.
But that’s a completely different ball game and it’s so far off from our initial goal that we decided not to pursue it. If anyone would like to pick up where we left off, consider your first customer in the pocket.

It is true what they say: if you want to become a millionaire in the aviation business, you have to start as a billionaire. Lucky for me, I didn’t invest any serious money yet but the fact that I have to abandon this project makes my soul ache. My brain says no and my hart says yes. Brain wins this round
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06-22-2009 10:26 AM  11 years ago
ch-47c

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san jose, ca

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Are you throwing the towel in?

Maybe you need a different approach. Smaller scale. Convince the authorities to accept existing equipment with a reasonable weight limit, visual conditions, line of sight with model, altitude limit with telemetry, and spotter. Away from any full-scale operations, ie..no where near an airport. You don't need to do pix and videos of airport operations. In full scale flying, you can't do aerobatics in specific areas or below certain altitudes; however the FAA does issue waivers.

One step at a time. I think they buried you with certification of equipment to stifle you. Work within existing requirements and see if there are waivers. Or maybe they don't want to get involved with a totally new world of aviating that they don't know what to do with you! Here in the US it is the commercial aspect. The FAA doesn't care if you are taking pix or video with an RC heli as a hobbyist, but since you are doing it for profit, it has to be regulated, but they don't know how and have no desire to make it happen like the US govt did in the 1920s with the mail and early pax service.

I would go back and ask them how you can do it within existing equipment and regulations with minimal changes to the status quo.
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06-22-2009 02:00 PM  11 years ago
Rocam

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Belgium

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Just to be clear on the scale: I never told the DGLV the helicopter would weigh more than 40 lbs because of the UK CAP722 document. The bigger scale thing was just part of my reasoning, taking into account the potential market.

The last 2 months I have done nothing but trying to convince them that these light model helicopter pose little danger. I described in my previous posts that the situation is different over here. As a hobbyist, you cannot leave the designated model airfield which pretty much ties your hands. Certification is the only option.

I had meetings with the DGLV and described the project and helicopter in detail. I told them about the jobs I already had lined up and I told them I would even invest in a transponder and do whatever else - within reason - to get things going.

I also took the political road and discussed my intentions with my representatives and emphasized the opportunity to create jobs.

As a result I got these unreasonable standards. If you can read between the lines, they just told me to f*ck off. At least for now, untill the European standards will be available in a couple of years and God knows what those will be like.
FYI: this website has some more info about the international view on UAV activities: [url=http://www.uavm.com/uavregulatory.html]

The Director of Certification himself called the shot. If I were to try indirectly to have the DGLV change their mind about it, eventually that request would land on the same guys' desk again and he's not going to change his opinion he already told me.

I'm sorry, I would love to do this, don't get me wrong. But the amount of money I have available for this project is insufficient to become a manufacturer. And downscaling the project as you suggest is not an option, I already did that.
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06-22-2009 03:43 PM  11 years ago
Jlerch

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Parrish, Florida

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A lot of your problems stem from having to comply with manned rotorcraft safety considerations. Can you find a way out? Perhaps fighting for classification regulation changes would make the endeavor possible..

Does anyone know the regulation governing the Yamaha crop duster UAV flights? If Japan has already implemented regulations in this respect, perhaps convincing your government to adopt those UAV regulations might be easier..

I found this link:

http://www.juav.org/menu02/juav_safety_standards.pdf

unfortunately, Japan's approach is to authorize flight in uninhabited areas where no interaction with maned aircraft is possible. Grrr...
James Lerch - Tampa Bay FL
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