Check Against Delivery

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I was a bit younger, I used to read about robots. Maybe some of you also remember the author Isaac Asimov. He developed three laws for robots. First Law: a robot may not injure a human being; Second Law: a robot must obey the orders given by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; Third Law: a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Why are Asimov’s laws still relevant today? Because they helped to make robots acceptable to people. We need to do the same thing for civil drones.

We are witnessing some fascinating new developments. I had the pleasure to fly some drones myself just a few days ago, near Brussels. I could see how easy it was, and how accessible. I could see how much technology is now embedded in those drones, technology which for years was largely limited to space programmes.

Thanks to its low cost and high reliability, this technology has now become available for all kinds of very practical applications. It was obvious to me that these applications will change our lives and our businesses.

I am an engineer myself, so you can understand the reasons for my enthusiasm. But engineers also need to be realists. And I can definitely say: drones are real, they are here to stay, and we should not be afraid to embrace this technology and this vision of the future.

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You did not avoid the delicate questions: how do we, as a society, want to live with drones? These technologies are wonderful if they contribute to the welfare of European citizens. But they raise concerns if citizens feel that drones intrude in their private lives; if they illegally gather data; or if drones become flying nuisances.

Yes, we need to make a constant effort to bolster safety. Yes, we must respect fundamental rights. And yes, we must seek a suitable level of funding to make sure missing technologies are developed. This is what will really open our skies to drone operations.

As regulators, we have a clear responsibility to address these issues. Society expects nothing less from us. The engineers and the businesspeople will do the rest. Of course, we cannot adopt new rules and regulations here today. It will take some time.

But it is important that we are clear about our intentions. Businesses need to know where the regulation is going, in order to be able to make investment decisions. And citizens need to know how we will uphold their safety, security and fundamental rights, in order to accept that drones become more common in our daily lives.

So allow me to sum up the main messages from our conference, as clearly as possible. And these would also supply the main principles for the “Riga declaration on civil drones”.

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Drones must fly safely in all circumstances and must not harm people in the air or on the ground. Europe should develop safety rules focused on addressing the risk associated with operating a drone. Those rules must be proportionate to that risk. And they should be international, as much as possible. This basic regulatory framework should be put in place without delay, as from this year, in order to help the private sector to take well-informed investment decisions.

Integrating drones into the aviation system must not lead to a reduction in the already high level of safety. Although no one is on board, people in other aircraft, or on the ground, could get hurt in the event of an accident. Rules must be simple to allow a small start-up company or private persons to start low-risk operations. Higher risk operations would be subject to gradually more strict regulation or limitations.

How long will this take? EASA should consult stakeholders by the middle of 2015 on the regulatory framework for the operations of drones, and on concrete regulatory proposals for low-risk operations. By the end of 2015, the Agency will use the results of the consultation to propose a position on these matters. The proposal for the revision of the basic European safety regulation — which the European Commission has announced for 2015 — should contain the new provisions and requirements for a progressive risk-based regulation of drones, based on the Agency's recommendations.

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Drone operations must always respect the fundamental rights of European citizens. Authorities must be in a position to protect privacy. Police and the justice system must be in a position to deal with the security aspects.

Many operations with drones involve data-gathering such as filming. Public acceptance is key to any successful expansion of drone operations. That is why respect for fundamental rights must be guaranteed at all times. Data protection authorities, both national and European, should develop the necessary guidelines and procedures to ensure full respect for existing data protection rules. Rules need to be properly enforced, and they need to say clearly what is acceptable and what is not.

It should always be possible to identify the pilot or the operator of a drone, and we should work towards an electronic identity card for each drone. Drones must become an integral part of the standard insurance and third-party liability schemes.

When a drone is used in prohibited airspace or is used in an unsafe manner, or for illegal purposes, the authorities should be able to act and hold the operator accountable. This will need to be clarified in national law, but regulators should seek the least bureaucratic way to achieve this.

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Drone accidents will happen, unfortunately. Member States should clarify the applicable third-party liability regime, and monitor the compensation mechanism of the potential victims. The establishment of compensation funds for uninsured drone users, like we have in the automobile insurance sector, could be envisaged. Reporting on drone incidents should be integrated in the overall reporting requirements. Consistent reporting will improve both safety and third-party liability insurance.

Public authorities together with the industry should invest adequate resources to develop missing technologies and industry standards. Everyone recognises the need for sufficient investment in technologies which can integrate drones into the aviation system — like the SESAR programme.

SMEs must have easy access to information allowing them to enter the market. We should have a European observatory to monitor and keep track of the growing number of drone operations in Europe, and the progress of innovation. This monitoring will inform decision-making when setting priorities for future legislation, thus helping regulators to learn from experience and verify that the rules are fit for purpose. This would ensure that new technologies and applications can develop in full compliance with high levels of safety, security, privacy and environmental protection.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I propose that we work closely together in the coming months and years on the basis of these principles, in order to allow drone operations everywhere in Europe — from 2016 onwards.

I am convinced that this conference has made a great contribution to this objective. I would like to thank and congratulate all of you and, of course, my special thanks to Minister Matiss for hosting us these last two days in the beautiful city of Riga.