European drone regulation – consultation closes soon

Written by: Andrej Hyll
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Where do we stand in terms of regulation on drones in Europe? EASA has been developing proposals for an operation-centric, proportionate, risk- and performance-based regulatory framework for all unmanned aircraft, establishing three categories with different safety requirements, proportionate to the risk.

In August 2016, a prototype regulation was published proposing actual rules to provide clarity, notably on the responsibilities of Member States and the degree of flexibility offered to them. Notice of proposed Amendments (NPAs) 2017-05 (A) and 2017-05 (B) were introduced on 4th May and have been subject to public consultation, which is due to close on 15th September.

Alongside this comes the first draft of SORA (Specific Operation Risk Assessment) introduced by JARUS (Joint Authorities for the Rulemaking of Unmanned Systems; its purpose is to propose a methodology for the risk assessment that will be needed in order for an operation of UAS within a specific category, as defined in the NPAs.

Remember the main purpose of the NPA – the unification of regulations across Europe. However, the latest version (2017-05 (A) allows Member States to have quite substantial flexibility on how the rules would be applied. The NPA states:

If an operational or other risk related to UAS operations requires mitigation measures, the Member State may designate airspace areas or special zones:

(a) where certain UAS operations or types of UAS operations are not permitted without prior authorisation or are not permitted at all;

(b) where access is allowed only to certain UAS classes;

(c) where access is allowed only to UAS equipped with an electronic identification and/or geofencing system;

(d) where UAS operations shall comply with specified environmental standards; or

(e) where UAS operations are exempted from one or more of the open-category requirements of this Regulation,

If each Member State decides to apply the rules in a different way, we might be facing the same situation as we are today.

So, the question arises, where should we draw the line between sovereignty of Member States and common procedures across Europe. Would it be better if all EU States could reach consensus and apply the rules in a similar manner? Is this even feasible in the today's Europe?

What is your opinion? If you have views on this topic, note that EASA's consultation is open until Friday.

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