Today one of the most solid and realistic set of regulations applicable to unnamed aerial vehicles, or drones, has been issued.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has presented the regulatory approach that should rule the use and operation of drones in the European Union. The regulations are based on the “Concept of Operations” (COP) previously released by EASA.
“This new approach foresees safe and proportionate rules for the integration of RPAS into the European civil airspace. It gives flexibility to the new industry to mature and innovate, while at the same time ensures the right level of protection for citizens and goods.”
The COP states that the operation of drones should be regulated in a manner proportionate to the risk of the specific operation. Considering the broad range of operations and types of drones, it is proposed to establish 3 categories of operations and their associated regulatory regime: Open, Specific and Certified.
The “Open” operation category of drones, should not require an authorisation by an Aviation Authority for the flight but stay within defined limitations for the operation (e.g. distance from aerodromes, from people, etc.).
The drones’ pilots whose flight activities fall under the “Open” category will be able to use and operate drones without involvement of Aviation Authorities, even for commercial operations. No airworthiness approval will be required nor licenses for operators or pilots. It is designed to allow simple operations and for the small and medium-sized enterprises to gain experience.
In order to remain as an “open” operator, the drone should (i) not exceed 150 meters of altitude, (ii) remain under direct visual line of sight and (iii) be done outside of specific reserced áreas, such as airport or security facilities.
The “Specific” operation category will require an Operations Authorisation by an Aviation Authority with specific limitations adapted to the operation.
The specific category should cover operations that do not meet the characteristics of the open category where a certain risk needs to be mitigated by additional operational limitations or higher capability of the involved equipment and personal.
The operator should perform a safety risk assessment, identifying mitigation measures, that will be reviewed and approved by the National Aviation Authority .
The “Certified” operation category will be required for operations with a higher associated risk due to the kind of operation or might be requested on a voluntary basis by organisations providing services such as remote piloting or equipment such as detect and avoid.
When the aviation risks rise to a level akin to normal manned aviation the operation would be positioned in the category of certified operations. These operations and the aircraft involved therein would be treated in the classic aviation manner. Multiple certificates would be issued as for manned aviation plus some more specific to unmanned aircraft.
National Goverment acrross Europe should aprove individualy the regulations applicable withing their states; however, even when National Goverments are free to modify the text issued by the EASA, is unlikely that the final approved regulations applicable to each state differs greatly from the COP.
The European Union regulations on drones has shown that Europe is resolved to take the vanguard in policy development and has proved that a competente regulation can have safety and data protección as core values, and yet allow the use of drones for recreational and comercial use with minimun requirements.
The complete COP can be accesed here.