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Uniform EU law for civil drones in the offing

European skies could now get clearer with the European Parliament insisting on drone laws within the Union. Members of European Parliament (MEPs) want basic safety and privacy rules for civil drones weighing less than 150 kg. They want specific clause enshrined in EU legislation to ensure clarity and coherence, as well as mandatory registration of drones that weigh more 250 grams. These were part of the new common rules in the field of civil aviation adopted by the Transport Committee of the European Parliament on November 10.

Drone law in EU

Currently, the drone law in EU is not uniform with different countries having different standards. Drones weighing less than 150 kg are regulated at the national level in each Member state. But different safety and technical standards for each country is proving a headache for manufacturers and complicates cross-border cooperation within the Union.

[READ OUR SPECIAL FEATURE: The current scenario of global drone regulations and laws]

“Drones are more and more visible in our daily lives. They create all kinds of new opportunities for people and businesses. However, it also means that accidents can happen or drones can be used to cause harm,” said MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu from Romania who was responsible for steering the new rules through Parliament. “We are therefore strongly in favour of new rules that make registration mandatory above 250 grams and that requires operations to have the necessary skills to fly a drone in public spaces. This will not affect the vast majority of the ‘toy’ drones that people use now.”

The new rules outline important legislative changes in order to equip the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) with the necessary provisions to adapt to new developments in aviation like increased air traffic, the widespread use of drones, the emergence of conflict zones on Europe’s doorstep and increasing technological complexity in aviation among others.

Drone law in EU
Infographic explaining different drone laws in different EU countries. Source: EASA, EU Parliament’s research service, European Commission

Ensuring safety & privacy

All policies should include privacy and data protection safeguards, and drones should be equipped with ID chips and mandatorily registered thus making it easier to catch users indulging in criminal activities, said the draft. Drone ID chips would also facilitate accident investigations and help solve liability issues.

The EU Commission will now support further research into the innovative “detect and avoid” technologies to enable drones to avoid collisions with other airspace users or objects on the ground. Drones that can fly beyond visual line of sight must be equipped with this technology. Additionally, authorities should also develop and use “geo-fencing” technology to prevent drones from entering no-fly zones such as airports and power plants.

As drone risks differ based on the size of the drones or areas where it is being flown, rules should be tailored to differing levels of risk and should distinguish between professional and recreational use.

European drone industry

At present, EU Member states don’t recognize national authorisations for drones and their operators obtained in other Member states. The drone industry has for some time being complaining that this hampers their competitiveness and also the development of a total EU market for drones and allied services.

The European drone sector is expected to directly employ more than 100,000 people and economic impact will exceed €10 billion per year, mainly in services, within next 20 years.  This will happen because the numbers of applications which are possible or will be possible to be performed with a drone are increasing weekly and as soon as the regulatory standards will be established, this high target will be achieved.

Drones, which could be used to provide various services, such as inspecting rail tracks, dams, and power plants, assessing natural disasters, crop spraying, film production and parcel delivery have great potential for stimulating economic growth and job creation, the resolution said.