Unmanned aircrafts

Unmanned aircrafts

Unmanned aircrafts, commonly called drones, offer huge potential for developing innovative civil applications in a wide variety of sectors that benefit European society, and will contribute to creating new businesses and jobs.

Within 20 years, the European drone sector is expected to:


  • directly employ more than 100,000 people
  • have an economic impact exceeding EUR 10 billion per year, mainly in services

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

Click on the image to see the Euronews episode on drones. More languages are available.

Developing European safety rules for civil drones

In the spotlight

Based on its strategy to support the progressive development of the civil drone market in Europe, the European Commission adopted the proposal for the revision of EASA Basic Regulation 216/2008 on 8 December 2015. The proposal covers the necessary elements to enable the development of European safety rules for drones. It also proposes an extension of EU regulation to cover drones of all sizes, including drones below 150 kg, which today are regulated on national level.

In parallel, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published a first draft of Commission implementing rules (‘Prototype’ Commission Regulation on Unmanned Aircraft Operations and its Explanatory Note) to provide a clearer idea of what could be a European regulation and further engage with stakeholders. These 'prototype' rules are building on the Technical Opinion on the operation of drones published in December 2015,the related public consultation, based on a Concept of Operations for Drones and a Proposal to create common rules for operating drones in Europe (A‑NPA 2015-10) issued earlier in 2015.

DroneRules.eu - raising awareness about drone regulation


is a web portal that provides information about the regulation of drone operation in Europe, including safety, privacy and data protection, liability and insurance requirements.


Rules alone are not enough to ensure safe drone operations that also respect the right to privacy and data protection. The rules must be made familiar to the drone community and be accessible and understandable to everyone using drones. This is all the more important as many drone operators are often unfamiliar with aviation and the safety implications of drone use. The Commission is funding DroneRules.eu to provide easy access to the most important information relevant to drone users in Europe.

European Commission Strategy

Based on a public consultation, the European Commission has developed a strategy to support the progressive development of the unmanned aircraft 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 Declaration and was 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 opinion (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.

Other measures taken by the Commission


  • 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 different 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)

    • Part 1 (506 kB) – Status (2007)
    • Part 2 (3 MB) – Way Forward (2007)

Public 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.
  • Note: to access documents please click on "Library" on the left-hand menu. No login or registration is required.

Related organisations