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:
The single European sky ATM research joint undertaking (SESAR JU) is a public-private partnership pooling together the entire European ATM community. SESAR JU published these figures in their European drones outlook study
As civil aviation evolves towards more automation, drone technology will also be crucial for the competitiveness of the European aeronautics industry as a whole.
The European Commission wants to contribute to the development of a drone ecosystem supporting the emergence of this promising sector. All the while addressing related societal concerns such as safety, security, privacy and environmental protection. To this end, it has adopted a strategy presented in a Communication. This strategy has been endorsed in 2015 by the aviation community in the Riga Declaration. It is regularly updated (see the Warsaw Declaration of 2016, the Helsinki Declaration of 2018 and the Amsterdam Declaration of 2018) to take stock of the progress made so far and indicate new priorities.
An expert group on drones was established in April 2017. It acts as a sounding board and assists the Commission in the conception and implementation of the EU drone Strategy.
In recent years, the need for traffic management focused on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) emerged in many parts of the world. This UAS traffic management system (UTM) would ensure safe operation of a large number of drones at low-altitude (especially in urban areas). As traditional air traffic management (ATM) ensures the safety of aircraft operations at high altitude, so does UTM at a lower altitude. The Commission mandated the SESAR JU to lead the development of a UTM concept for Europe, called U-Space. A blueprint was released in June 2017 with a preliminary vision for the U-space. It consists of a set of services enabling complex drone operations in all types of operational environments.
12 March 2019
The Commission adopts common EU-wide rules setting technical requirements for drones.
Following the entry into force of the new aviation safety Basic Regulation, setting rules for unmanned aircraft, irrespective of their weight, is a Commission competence. Over the coming years, the Commission will introduce a complete regulatory framework enabling the further development of the European drone sector (See EASA RMT.0230).
The approach taken by the Commission, with the support of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, is to apply the highest safety standards achieved in manned aviation to drones as well. The rules are based on an assessment of the risk of operation, and strike a balance between the obligations of drone manufacturers and operators in terms of safety, respect for privacy, the environment, protection against noise, and security. For example, new drones will have to be individually identifiable, allowing the authorities to trace a particular drone if necessary.
On March 12, 2019 the European Commission adopted common EU-wide rules setting technical requirements for drones. They will set features and capabilities that drones must have in order to be flown safely and, at the same time, help foster investment and innovation in this promising sector. The EU rules build on national rules that were in place and now provide a harmonized framework across the European Union.
Chapter II of this Regulation defines, in particular, a harmonization legislation (CE marking) defining the requirements that consumer drones must comply with in order to be used in the ‘open’ category of operations, i.e. without the need to obtain a prior authorisation from an aviation authority.
In addition to the technical requirements for drones adopted today, the Commission intends to adopt provisions covering the operation of drones. The rules will cover each operation type, from those not requiring prior permission, to those involving certified aircraft and operators, as well as minimum remote pilot training requirements. These technical and operational rules will also replace any national rules on drones that may currently exist in the different Member States.
Standards will complement this regulatory framework. ASD-STAN D5WG8 is developing standards covering the requirements imposed on the consumer drones intended to be operated in the ‘open’ category of operations. EUROCAE WG-105 develops on its side standards and guidance documents that will allow the safe operation of UAS in all types of airspaces.
This proposal is based on the following consultation documents:
Drone rules 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.
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:
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.
The SESAR Joint Undertaking conducted this study in order to assess the development of drones' operations drones within European skies.
This report provides a summary of the results of the drone demonstration projects launched by SESAR JU in 2013.
The purpose of this report, prepared by the JRC, is to provide an overview and an evaluation of techniques able to support 3 main functions needed in the design and deployment of drones in Europe. The 3 functions are: transparency of drones’ operations, 4-D geofencing and minimisation of the collected data. The report provides recommendations on the most feasible technologies or gaps to be filled to support regulatory and standardisation activities for drone operations in Europe.
Full Report (2017) (3 MB)
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.
In a second initiative, the JRC investigated the benefits of engaging dialogues with citizens on the ethical dimensions of different new technologies including drones.
In this article, Philip Boucher reported the results of public engagement activities conducted by the JRC to explore citizens’ visions of civil drones. Several insights counteracted the prevalent assumptions. There is no blanket support for or opposition to civil drones. He found that citizens make nuanced decisions about the acceptability of civil drones depending upon the purpose of the flight and the actors involved. The results support calls to strengthen the role of citizens in civil drone development. In particular, to shift away from the current focus on citizens’ acceptance of civil drone development towards the development of civil drones that are acceptable to citizens.
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.
Final Report (2014) (1 MB)
This study analyses the privacy, data protection and ethical risks posed by civil RPAS applications and makes recommendations to mitigate them.
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.