Policy issues

New Rules For Drones Are Here

New Rules For Drones Are Here

In April 2019, EBAA along with 15 other associations signed a joint statement – We are all ONE in the sky – calling for an extensive public awareness campaign and mandatory training and certificate/license relevant to operations, as well as facilitation of incident reporting. These proposed action areas would lay the foundations for safe drone integration in- and cooperation with the current aviation framework.

Following the publication of the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945  and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947  on 11 June, EBAA is happy to see that the new rules reflect a proportionality with respect to the nature and risk level of the operations performed.

This is in line with the long-standing Performance-Based approach that EASA emphasizes in their yearly edition of the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS). The Regulation takes notice of the operational characteristics of the unmanned systems and proposes an appropriate risk assessment of each operational scenario and environment. Whenever low-risk operations within the “Specific” category are planned, operators may submit a declaration towards their authority, should these operations fit within a pre-defined standard scenario.

What’s next?

According to EASA’s press release on the EU wide drone rules , these two new pieces of regulatory material will enter into force in the next 20 days following the publication, but will only be applicable one year from now. This will allow the operators to progressively adopt the rules and make sure they comply with all the specifications.

Starting with these regulations, the unmanned aviation community enters a one-year transition period, at the end of which the registration of UAS in the Certified category becomes mandatory. This process aims at enabling the free circulation of drones in the EU while setting the standard for safe operations that protect the privacy of the EU citizens.

From June 2020 onwards the operators of UAS in the open category over 250g or lighter than 250g, but fitted with sensors able to capture personal data, as well as of drones in the specific category, will have to be registered.

To pave the road, EASA will publish the Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance Material (GM) in October 2019, together with the first five pre-defined risk-assessments.

In the same month, EASA will publish an Opinion proposing to add two standard scenarios covering low risk operations (rural Visual Line of Sight – VLOS and urban Beyond Visual Line of Sight – BVLOS), as an amendment to the European Implementing Act. The following steps would see this opinion transposed into a legislative act by the EC and, following a positive vote from the EU Member States, adopted.

EASA expects that in June 2020, based on an authorization granted by the local NAA, operations falling in the ‘Specific’ category may be conducted. The authorization will be granted as long as the applicant complies with the risk assessment and procedures defined by the EU Regulation or uses one of the pre-defined risk assessments as AMC.

June 2020 will also mark the moment when drone users can start operating in limited ‘Open’ category, gradually over a time span of 2 years, first with drones with a weight of less than 500g in areas where overflying people is not to be expected. Progressively, drones with weight up to 2 kg could be operated up to 50 m horizontal distance from people and finally, heavier drones (≤ 25 kg) may be operated at 150 m horizontal distance of residential, recreational and industrial areas, whenever overflying people is not to be expected during the entire duration of the flight.

According to EASA’s timeline, national authorizations, certificates and declarations would be fully converted to the new EU system until June 2021 and all model clubs and associations should receive an authorization by the NAA before June 2022.

Our interpretation

The two significant differences between pre-defined risk assessment and standard scenarios refer to the risk level and the procedure the operator needs to follow prior to engaging in any operations.

Should the operator wish to perform a low risk operation that is described through one of the standard scenarios, they may use it as a basis to justify submitting a declaration. This approach has the advantage that the operator does not need to apply and wait for an authorisation to be issued.

On the contrary, if the operations involve a significant degree of risk, the operators may make use of the pre-defined risk assessments to prove compliance with the regulatory requirements.

We were pleased to see that, following the EASA Counter Drone Task Force’s recommendations, the UAS operators and remote pilots are encouraged to make sure they hold all the information on the applicable national and European rules and regulations, before engaging in any operations. These should include, but not be limited to safety and security of operations, privacy and data protection, insurance and liability, as well as the environmental protection aspects.

Furthermore, the Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC) is equivalent to the Air Operator Certificate (AOC), which means a safety target level equivalent to the one in manned aviation. The most welcome aspect is the requirement for a Safety Management System (SMS) in which the operator needs to document all safety management key processes, such as safety reporting and internal investigations, compliance monitoring and training and safety promotion.

Our recommendation

Under the Regulation, Member States may issue national regulations covering scenarios outside the scope of the Basic Regulation (EU) 2018/1139. However, this might go against the desire to harmonize regulations and create a level playing field in the European unmanned aviation market.

While technology is evolving rapidly in the unmanned aircraft industry, the regulation development curve often lags far behind. Thus, Member States would most likely already have established regulations fitting to a higher level of technological development by the time a suitable European Regulation will be in place. To that extent, we would encourage the development of national regulations while making sure that the NAAs stay in close contact with EASA to ensure a state of equity and fair competition.

Due to the similarities in the business model between UAS and Business Aviation operations, especially in terms of size and profile of the operations, the EBAA is continuously engaged in promoting the unmanned aviation community and supporting their integration in the current framework.

The EBAA team is working on a more elaborate document reflecting the association’s position with respect to the current and upcoming regulations, all while offering our concerned members an overview of what to expect in terms of their interactions with the unmanned vehicles.

For questions and comments, please get in touch with our Safety Team at safety@ebaa.org