The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published the first formal Opinion on safe operations for small drones in Europe.
This formal Opinion is an important stepping-stone to keep drone operations safe and secure and build a wider regulatory framework.
The Opinion will serve as a basis for the European Commission to adopt concrete regulatory proposals later in the year. A first meeting chaired by the European Commission to discuss this Opinion with the EU Member States already took place on 21 February 2018.
Patrick Ky, EASA executive director said: “This regulation will allow the free circulation of drones and a level playing field within the European Union, while also respecting the privacy and security of EU citizens, and allowing the drone industry to remain agile, to innovate and continue to grow.”
The EASA Opinion comes up with an innovative way of regulating, where the rules are kept as simple as possible with a strong focus on the particular risk of the operation: flying the same drone over a city centreor over the sea entails a completely different risk.
The Opinion also breaks new ground by combining product legislation and aviation legislation: design requirements for small drones (up to 25kg) will be implemented by using the well-known CE (“Conformité Européenne”) marking for products brought on the market in Europe. The operator will find in each drone package a consumer information with the “do’s and don’ts” on how to fly a drone without endangering other people.
The proposed approach is innovative and globally recognised as the best way forward to keep drone operations safe. The requirements do not focus on the drone itself, but consider a range of elements such as where the drone is flown (over the sea or over a city centre), who is flying the drone (a child or a professional pilot) or what drone is actually being used (how heavy is the drone or what safety features it does have).
- The ‘open’ category of operations’ does not require a prior authorisation by the competent authority, nor a declaration by the operator, before the operation takes place. Safety is ensured through a combination of operational limitations, technical requirements for the machine and the competency of the remote pilot. Examples of operations that fall into this category are filming and taking photographs, infrastructure inspections, and leisure activities in which the remote pilot keeps the unmanned aircraft in sight at all times.
- The ‘specific’ category of operations requires an authorisation by the competent authority before the operation takes place. Here, safe operations are guaranteed through a system in which the drone operator is required to carry out an operational risk assessment and put in place the resulting mitigation measures to obtain an authorisation to fly the drone. Examples of this category are flights where the operator can no longer see the drone (so-called beyond visual line of sight or BVLOS), flying over populated areas and operations with heavier drones.
The Opinion allows a high degree of flexibility for the EASA Member States. They will be able to define zones where drone operations will be either prohibited or restricted (for example, to protect sensitive areas), or where certain requirements are alleviated (for example, areas dedicated to model aircraft).
EASA will develop standard scenarios that will make it simpler to obtain authorisations for well-defined operations (such as, for example, linear inspections conducted in BVLOS, or crop spraying). The proposal also recognises the good safety records of model flying clubs and associations and it provides special alleviations for members of those clubs and associations.
This Opinion follows a preceding consultation document (Notice of Proposed Amendment – published by EASA in May 2017), and it takes into account thousands of comments received from private citizens, industry, operators and national authorities during the four-month public consultation period. A detailed impact assessment supported the initial consultation document. The Opinion includes, for information draft Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material which will help operators to comply with the rules. More information: https://www.easa.europa.eu/drones