Baroness O’Cathain, the committee’s chair, said that “the rise of civilian use of drones across the EU is staggering. In the UK alone the number of permissions granted for civilian use of drones in congested areas went up 40 fold between 2006 and 2013.
The European Commission has been discussing since 2012 how to regulate the operations of UAVs in the EU. It published a Communication on 8 April 2014 setting out its ideas on how European industry can become a global leader in the market for this emerging technology. At the same time, it acknowledged that the integration of RPAS into the EU's airspace must be accompanied by adequate public debate on societal concerns, including safety, data protection, and security threats, among others.
The Committee will consider whether the Commission has identified the key issues in this debate, and how the EU's actions can benefit the UAV industry in Europe in a way that is acceptable to all stakeholders. In its deliberation the Committee will look at wider questions such as the advantages and disadvantages of regulating RPAS at national, EU or international level and the new and innovative ways in which RPAS are likely to be used in the future.
“With this increase comes a raft of issues that need to be addressed, such as whether safety considerations are and should be standard across Europe and whether they need to be changed; the issue of correct controls being in place to protect European citizens’ privacy and data; and if the European industry can become a global leader. Nevertheless, we must remember that too much regulation too early will kill off the industry in its infancy.”
The inquiry will focus mainly on the European Commission’s work on drones, and the deadline for submission of evidence is 19 September.