Throughout Europe, drones are subject to many different rules set by Europe’s many countries.
That is all set to change, now that European MPs have agreed upon a set of drone safety rules that will see all drones throughout Europe fall under the same set of unmanned aviation safety rules.
With the European Commission predicting 150,000 could be created by drones in industry by 2050, that’s a lot of drones that will now be held account under the same laws and skies.
The agreement, which was reached by Council and Parliament in November of 2017, was approved this Tuesday. It will ensure a common playing field for all drones under the weight of 150kg, allowing drone makers and service providers a standard framework with which to develop products and services (drones weighing above 150kg are already regulated by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency).
The new rules, which are based around aspects of safety, privacy, data protection and the environment, stipulate that any new drones need to be designed in such a way that people can operate them without putting others or themselves at risk.
Effectively, this means that any risk created by factors such as the weight of the drone or the location in which it is being operated, would be mitigated by the addition of features to the drone such as autonomous landing in case of loss of contact, or obstacle avoidance systems.
However, should manufacturers need to develop drones for commercial or industrial use that do not comply with the new laws, they will be able to apply to the overarching European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for exclusions, providing they can show that the EU would benefit from the availability of those drones.
Identification of drones also forms part of the new laws, requiring drone operators to join a national register as well as mark their drones with identification. How this would be done is not clear at this stage, but could perhaps follow France’s lead of adding a remotely transmitted ID signal and flashing lights.
All drone operators must ensure they are aware of the new legislation, and must possess the skills with which to operate their drones without putting people at risk – in some cases this will mean drone pilot training must completed before operation of a drone.
The next steps are for the European Union ministers to approve the rules, after which the EU Commission will set the finer details with regard to definition of maximum altitudes and distances, as well as what types of drones and drone application would require certification.
Small drones that have a basic design, tend to be only operated at home or are homemade and are not produced in large numbers are to remain under the regulation of the Member States’ own laws.