Civil drones in the European Union

28-10-2015

Drones are aircraft which are operated with no pilot on board. Initially developed for military and defence purposes, they are increasingly used for various civil purposes, including photography, rescue operations, infrastructure monitoring, farming and aerial mapping. Being aircraft, drones have to comply with aviation safety rules. International civil aviation rules adopted since 1944 at United Nations level prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over another state’s territory without its permission. In the EU, the current regulatory system for drones is based on fragmented rules, with many Member States having already regulated or planning to regulate some aspects of civil drones with an operating mass of 150 kg or less. The responsibility for civil drones over 150 kg is left to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). However, the extent, content and level of detail of national regulations differs, and conditions for mutual recognition of operational authorisations between EU Member States have not been reached. In 2014, the Commission adopted a Communication outlining a strategy for opening the aviation market gradually to civil drones. In the strategy it calls for adoption of EU-wide rules on civil drones, which should ensure that drones are safe, secure and respect fundamental rights. The Council is in favour of a harmonised European approach, and considers EASA best placed to develop technical and safety standards, licences and certificates. The EP's Committee on Transport and Tourism presents its views in a report on civil drones to be voted by the EP plenary in October 2015. In its report, the Committee calls for proportionate and risk-based rules, while also putting emphasis on safety, privacy, security and data protection. The next step is the revision of EASA's Basic Regulation to include in it a specific article on drones, and define their essential requirements.

Drones are aircraft which are operated with no pilot on board. Initially developed for military and defence purposes, they are increasingly used for various civil purposes, including photography, rescue operations, infrastructure monitoring, farming and aerial mapping. Being aircraft, drones have to comply with aviation safety rules. International civil aviation rules adopted since 1944 at United Nations level prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over another state’s territory without its permission. In the EU, the current regulatory system for drones is based on fragmented rules, with many Member States having already regulated or planning to regulate some aspects of civil drones with an operating mass of 150 kg or less. The responsibility for civil drones over 150 kg is left to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). However, the extent, content and level of detail of national regulations differs, and conditions for mutual recognition of operational authorisations between EU Member States have not been reached. In 2014, the Commission adopted a Communication outlining a strategy for opening the aviation market gradually to civil drones. In the strategy it calls for adoption of EU-wide rules on civil drones, which should ensure that drones are safe, secure and respect fundamental rights. The Council is in favour of a harmonised European approach, and considers EASA best placed to develop technical and safety standards, licences and certificates. The EP's Committee on Transport and Tourism presents its views in a report on civil drones to be voted by the EP plenary in October 2015. In its report, the Committee calls for proportionate and risk-based rules, while also putting emphasis on safety, privacy, security and data protection. The next step is the revision of EASA's Basic Regulation to include in it a specific article on drones, and define their essential requirements.