European aviation community calls for cooperation to ensure the safe integration of drones in European airspace

19 May 2020, Brussels. The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) along with Europe’s leading aviation associations call on the European Commission to develop an inclusive and cooperative approach to ensure the safe integration of drones in the European airspace.

The joint signatories of the ‘We are all ONE in the sky’ initiative (see note to editors) sent an open letter to the EU’s Commissioner for Transport, Ms. Adina Vălean, on EASA’s proposal for a high-level regulatory framework for unmanned aviation operations and traffic management (U-Space).

Commenting on the open letter, EBAA Secretary-General Athar Husain Khan said: “EBAA has always supported an inclusive approach that takes into account the needs of all airspace users. The current proposal from EASA is a promising first step, but more work is required to find a solution that does not limit airspace availability”.

The letter calls on the European Commission to;

  • Develop further the latest regulation proposal to secure the support of the aviation industry;
  • Launch a new and more comprehensive consultation, involving key representatives from manned and unmanned aviation organisations;
  • Ensure transparency and efficiency in the regulatory processes and related decision-making processes.

The signatories encourage and support the ambition of the European Union to lead global efforts to develop a proportionate regulatory framework for U-Space. From a safety, public security, capacity, and economic perspective a performance-based and risk-based regulatory framework can provide certainty to all airspace users and the aviation community. Ultimately it can also facilitate the safe integration of drones in Europe’s skies, ensuring commercial drone services can grow.

The signatories believe that the upcoming U-Space Regulation represents an important first opportunity to achieve this goal worldwide. The lessons learnt from the implementation of the proposed regulation in Europe should be leveraged to inform ICAO’s Global UTM Framework and other regulatory efforts across the world. As such, it is crucial that the regulatory framework achieves a number of key principles, as set out in the joint signatories’ letter of November 2019, and ensures the buy-in of the whole industry – manned and unmanned.

While some progress has been made since the first draft Opinion was published in October 2019, the revised draft Regulation still does not fully address the concerns that were raised by the stakeholders in their November letter.  The signatories retain concerns on a number of issues, including the implications for the safety of all airspace users; the level of clarity on responsibilities of actors within the system; how to facilitate interoperability and the integration of operations; the potential implications of the proposed architecture of the system; and practical aspects as to how such a framework might be implemented.

The signatories call on the European Commission and Member States to take these concerns and suggestions into account when considering how to best proceed with this very important piece of regulation.