UAVs and Drones are the products that are most looked for at this year’s INTERGEO 2014 held at Berlin. Around 30 companies had some way or the other a direct interest and connection to this topic.
Policy – A hindrance as always
While this is a positive sign to look at a great interest from the companies to look in to this area, and for professionals to show a great enthusiasm on their behalf, policy still seems to be a great bottle neck for a larger uptake of UAVs for professional use.
While talking to a senior media colleague and out of my interactions with the UAV companies, it was very unclear where in Europe they see such a potential when there are major restrictions on flying UAVs.
France is one of few countries that allows flying the UAVs but restricting to fly them beyond 1000 m. Also, it does not permit to fly above the urban areas, where there is a larger potential.
Germany does not seems to open area, where there are restrictions on flying – requiring multiple levels of permissions with no single competent authority.
Netherlands is also a no fly zone and the government is even looking at ways they can track the UAVs being flow for profession and for Hobby so that it can be monitored and restricted.
Need for a unified UAV policy across Europe
While talking to the CEO of a very big UAV company it emerged that there is an urgent need for a single policy framework across EU to certify various UAV products for airworthiness; bring in training and certification standards for professional flyers apart from just talking about removing restrictions as part of the policy framework.
While, such a policy is not yet there for EU, it seems to be ground work in progress for a policy that will be coming up during 2015.
Where is the business for the European UAV companies ?
An interesting point to note is why so much enthusiasm from the industry in a trade show in Europe, where there is no visible business due to policy restrictions for professional mapping. Where is the business in Europe for these companies when there are restrictions, where are they doing business currently? When asked these questions, it is seen that majority of business for these companies currently lies outside of Europe – interestingly on Latin America and Africa.
Mining and agriculture as the two focus areas for these companies. Especially with the current capabilities of most of the UAVs to cover smaller areas and virtually no restrictions in place in these geographies, these companies quoted that they are working in these regions.
In conclusion, it seems that in the absence of a unified policy framework, Europe is not fully ready yet to take on the UAV challenge!
Please note that the points presented here, especially on the policy restrictions in the countries is purely out of the informal discussions. I stand to be correct with your valuable feedback!