On appeal by the European Commission, Member States, and other stakeholders, EASA developed a proposal for proportionate, an operation centric, risk- and performance-related regulatory framework for all uncrewed aircraft (UA). A general idea, setting three sections of UAS operations (‘open,’ ‘specific’ and ‘certified’) with different security provisions, proportionate to the threat, was introduced with the publication of Advance Notice of Proposed Amendment (A-NPA 2015-10) in July 2015 and a Technical Opinion in December 2015.
The main classes of UAS operations are:
- The ‘open’ class is a category of UAS operation that, considering the risks involved, do not require a prior authorization from the competent authority nor a statement by the UAS operator before the operation takes place;
- The ‘specific’ class is a division of UAS operation which, considering the risks involved, requires an authorization from the competent authority before the process occurs, taking into consideration the mitigation measures identified in an operational risk assessment, except for specific regular scenarios where a statement by the operator is adequate or if the operator holds a light UAS operator certification (LUC) with the suitable rights;
- The ‘certified’ category is a kind of UA operation which, considering the risks involved requires the certificate of the UAS, a certified remote pilot and an operator approved by the competent authority, to be able to guarantee an appropriate level of security.
Depending on the market’s requirements, preference has been provided to the improvement of a regulation for operations in the ‘open’ and ‘specific’ category. The regulatory framework for operations in the ‘certified’ class is currently under development.
Rules For operations in ‘open’ and ‘specific’ category
After the publication of a ‘Prototype’ regulation for the ‘open’ and ‘specific’ categories in August 2016, EASA enlisted and published on 4 May 2017, NPA 2017-05 with the considerable input given by a specialist group. A thorough impact assessment complemented it.
During the four months consultation period, over 3 700 comments from around 215 commenters were obtained and evaluated. Opinion 01/2018was published on 6 February 2018, proposing a new European law for UAS operations in the ‘open’ and ‘specific’ category.
The proposed regulation has taken into account the developments in the worldwide arena, e.g., work done from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); at the Joint Authorities for the Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems (JARUS) and also from the USA (FAA).
The principal aspects of the proposed regulation are:
- It offers a framework to safely operate drones while enabling this business to innovate, to stay agile, and continue to develop. The risk posed to other aircraft and people on the ground in addition to privacy, security, and information security problems produced by such drones is also taken into consideration.
- It defines the operational and technical requirements for the drones. Technical specifications refer, for example, to the remote identification of drones. Functional requirements apply among others to geo-awareness, a system that informs the remote pilot when a drone is entering a prohibited zone. The proposal also addresses the pilots’ qualifications.
- Moreover, drone drivers will need to enrol themselves, except when they run drones lighter than 250g and with no camera.
- It reveals new grounds by combining aviation legislation and product legislation. Indeed, design specifications for smaller drones will be implemented by using the law relative to making products accessible in the market (the popular CE marking). The official CE mark will be followed by the description of the category of the drone (C0 to C4) and with a do’s and don’ts consumer information that will be found in most drone boxes. Depending on the drone category, an operator will know in which area he can operate and what competence is necessary.
- It enables a high level of flexibility for the EASA Member States; they will have the ability to specify zones in their territory where either drones operations are restricted or prohibited (such as to protect sensitive areas) or where specific provisions are alleviated. For operations involving higher risks, an operational risk assessment will specify the criteria that the operator should comply before flying the drone.
The proposal also presents particular alleviations for individuals flying model aircraft (even thought of as drones) to recognize the excellent safety records in her aero modelling by identifying three choices:
- Member States may issue a special authorization to model clubs and associations describing variations from the UAS regulation;
- Operations can be conducted in particular zones designated by the Member States; or
- Operations can be performed in the open category according to the operational constraints set for one of the subcategories (A3).
To ensure the open circulation of drones and a level playing field within the European Union EASA have developed common European principles. The strategy taken is to apply the most eminent safety standards achieved in manned aviation to drones also. The laws are based on an evaluation of the possibility of operation and strike a balance between the duties of drone operators and manufacturers concerning security, respect for privacy, the environment, protection against noise, and safety.
The new rules ensure that drone operators — whether professional or recreational — will have a thorough understanding of what’s allowed or not. They’ll cover every operation type out of those not requiring prior consent, to those involving certified operators and aircraft, in addition to minimum, distant pilot training requirements.
Operators will be able to run their drones seamlessly when flying beyond the EU or when developing a business including drones around Europe. Standard rules will help foster innovation and investment in this promising sector.
On 11 June 2019 standard European principles on drones, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/947 & Commission Delegated Legislation (EU) 2019/945, have been released to guarantee drone services across Europe are reliable and protected. The principles will, amongst others, help to safeguard the security and the privacy of EU citizens while allowing the free circulation of drones and a level playing field within the European Union.
“Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring safe, secure and sustainable operations of drones both, for commercial and leisure activities. Common rules will help foster investment, innovation and growth in this promising sector” said Patrick Ky, Executive Director of EASA.
The new rules include technical and operational specifications for drones. On the one hand, they specify the capabilities of a drone need to have to be operated safely. As an example, new drones will need to be independently identifiable, enabling the authorities to trace a specific drone if required. This helps to prevent better events like the ones that happened in 2018 at Gatwick and Heathrow airports. On the other hand, the principles cover every operation type, from those not asking prior authorization, to those between certified operators and aircraft, in addition to minimum distant pilot training requirements. The new rules will replace existing federal laws in the EU Member States.
While the EU law will enter into force in the next 20 days, it is going to be applicable only in one year, to give the Member States and operator’s time to prepare and execute it. As of June 2020, drones operators will have to enrol in the Member State in which they have their residence or their primary place of business.