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Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)

The development of drones began in the 1950's and recently matured in a military context. Drones are now entering the civil market, opening a promising new chapter in the history of aviation.

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In the spotlight

Civil drones offer huge potential for developing innovative applications in a wide variety of sectors that benefit European society, creating jobs and achieving useful tasks.

As civil aviation evolves towards more automation, drones' technologies will also be crucial for the competitiveness of the European aeronautics industry, as a whole.

European Commission Strategy

The European Commission has developed a strategy to support the progressive development of the RPAS market in Europe, while also addressing concerns about safety, security, privacy, liability and/or public acceptance.

This strategy has been endorsed by the aviation community in the Riga Declarationpdf and made public after the conference organised on 5 - 6 March 2015 by the Ministry of Transport of Latvia and the Civil Aviation Agency of Latvia, in cooperation with the European Commission, during the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The European Commission strategy is presented in a Communication, adopted in April 2014, entitled "A new era for aviation: Opening the aviation market to the civil use of RPAS in a safe and sustainable manner".

The strategy focuses on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), a sub-set of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which excludes fully autonomous systems. It aims to ensure:

  • The safe and secure integration of RPAS into the European aviation system, from 2016 onwards, through the development of:
    • A common safety regulatory framework, proportionate to risks for drones of all classes. This is to enable the creation of a single European market for civil drones applications;
    • The necessary enabling technologies ('sense and avoid', 'comment and control communication link' etc.) within the 'SESAR' joint undertaking, in close coordination with other initiatives;
  • Measures to ensure the protection of citizens (privacy, insurance, etc.);
  • Measures to support market development and European industries.

On 26 November 2014 the European Data Protection Supervisor published his opinionpdf (360 kB) on the above RPAS communication.

On 16 June 2015 the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party adopted its Opinion on Privacy and Data Protection Issues Relating to the Utilisation of Drones.

On 20 May 2014, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) issued an Opinion on Ethics of Security and Surveillance Technologies (n°28) which addresses the use of drones for surveillance missions.

The strategy was established after extensive public consultation between 2009 and 2012, as well as the creation of a Roadmap for the Integration of civil RPAS into the European Aviation System, prepared by a group of representative European stakeholders:

Measures taken by the Commission

Regulatory work

  • New regulatory approach for RPAS by EASA

    In March 2015, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) presented its New Regulatory Approach for RPAS for safely operating Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). This new approach, called 'Concept of Operations', can be downloaded herepdf.

    In July 2015, EASA launched a consultation on the Introduction of a regulatory framework for the operations of drones (A-NPA 2015-10)pdf. This consultation covers an overall regulatory framework for drone operations as well as concrete proposals for the regulation of low-risk drone operations. Stakeholders are invited to comment on it by 25 September 2015.

  • Public consultation

    In 2014, the European Commission launched an online consultation to identify both the benefits of RPAS and concerns to be addressed through EU intervention. The results informed an impact assessment on regulation for the development and use of RPAS within the single aviation market.

    Read more on the public consultation on benefits of RPAS

Project for facilitating access to regulation for light RPAS: Web-portal for SMEs on RPAS

The Commission launched a web portal to gather information on, and raise awareness of, national regulatory regimes for safety, insurance, privacy, etc. which regulate RPAS operations in Europe. The portal aims to be a one-stop shop for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to expand their business in another Member State.

Studies

  • Civil Drones in Society

    To support the development of responsible and socially beneficial strategies for civil drones, the JRC has undertaken several initiatives. The study on the Societal and ethics aspects of RPAS explores policy developments, consultations, and research projects in Europe and beyond. It also offers a critique of aspects of the development strategy, grounded in the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation.

  • Ethics Dialogues

    In a second initiative, the JRC investigated the benefits of engaging dialogues with citizens on the ethical dimensions of diferent new technologies including drones.

  • Third-Party Liability and Insurance Requirements of RPAS

    Despite efforts undertaken to ensure the safety of RPAS operations, accidents may happen and victims need to be compensated for any injury or damage caused by the operation of an RPAS. This study investigates the efficiency of the existing regulatory framework and makes recommendations for improvements.

  • Data protection and ethical risks in civil RPAS operations

    This study analyses the privacy, data protection and ethical risks posed by civil RPAS applications and makes recommendations to mitigate them.

  • Study analysing the current activities in the field of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Database

To facilitate the gathering and consolidation of existing information and to increase the transparency of on-going activities, the Commission has set-up a public database on UAS accessible through the CIRCABC interest group on UAS. Stakeholders are invited to contribute to the database.

  • Public information can be sent to grow-uas@ec.europa.eu.
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Key documents

Other documents

Links to related organisations