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Drones: Commission adopts new rules and conditions for safe, secure and green drone operations

Drones: Commission adopts new rules and conditions for safe, secure and green drone operations

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22/04/2021

The European Commission today adopted the U-space package - three regulations that together create the conditions necessary for both drones and manned aircraft to operate safely in section of our airspace known as the U-space.

These regulations introduce new services for drone operators, allowing them to carry out more complex and longer-distance operations, particularly in congested, low-level airspace (below 120m), and when out of sight. The U-space creates and harmonises the conditions needed for manned and unmanned aircraft to operate safely, to prevent collisions between drones and other aircraft, and to mitigate the risks of drone traffic on the ground. 

Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said: “Drones are a clear part of the future transport and logistics landscape. There is vast potential when it comes to new cargo and delivery services, as well as other innovative applications, including drone flights with passengers on board in the future. This has clear added value in terms of achieving our decarbonisation, digitalisation and resilience ambitions, and the U-Space package is an important step towards creating the well-functioning, trusted and safe enabling environment that we need to develop a competitive EU drone services market.”

The U-space is included in the ‘Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy’, unveiled in December 2020. The Strategy lays the foundations for how the EU transport system can achieve its green and digital transformation and become more resilient to future crises. With drones a clear part of the future transport landscape, these regulations cover the roles and responsibilities of the organisations involved in the definition of U-space, the provision of U-space services, and the minimum necessary services required for manned and unmanned aircraft to operate within the U-space. 

Next Steps 

The regulatory package will enter into force in April and will become applicable as of 26 January 2023.  

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is preparing the technical specifications (Acceptable Means of Compliance/Guidance Material) in order to allow the industry and competent authorities to prepare for implementation. 

Background 

The 2015 Aviation Strategy for Europe called for the development of a basic legal framework for safe drone operations in the EU, as well as the development of detailed rules and industry standards. 

The 2016 Warsaw Conference on Drones further called for urgent action on the airspace dimension, in particular the development of the concept of a U-space, a set of digital services enabling the safe scaling up of routine drone operations.  

In 2018, the Council and the Parliament adopted a new Regulation establishing a risk-based and operations-centric approach to legislate in the field of aviation safety, and extending EU competence to all drones, irrespective of weight and size (Regulation 2018/1139).

In 2019, the Commission adopted a first set of detailed rules for the design and operation of drones (Regulation 2019/947 and Regulation 2019/945).

With today’s adoption of the regulatory framework for U-space, the Commission has fulfilled the objectives set in the 2015 strategy and 2016 Warsaw declaration. The U-space creates and harmonises the conditions needed for manned and unmanned aircraft to operate safely, to prevent collisions between drones and other aircraft, and to mitigate the risks of drone traffic on the ground. 

For more information 

PDF icon Questions and Answers

PDF icon Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) .../... of 22.4.2021 on a regulatory framework for the U-space

PDF icon Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) .../... of 22.4.2021 amending Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373 as regards requirements for providers of air traffic management/air navigation services and other air traffic management network functions in the U-space airspace designated in controlled airspace

PDF icon Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) .../... of 22.4.2021 amending Regulation (EU) No 923/2012 as regards requirements for manned aviation operating in U-space airspace