Amsterdam, 27 November 2018 – Drone users can expect common European rules supporting safe operations of drones by the second quarter of 2019. Pilots will have to take sufficient measures to minimise the risk of accidents and those who use drones beyond visual line of sight will need to provide a risk analysis before receiving approval from the authorities. In addition, the unmanned aircraft expected to be used by general public will need to be fitted with a chip that prevents them from flying in prohibited areas and will be subject to a maximum altitude of 120 metres.
These are just some of the proposals from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The goal is to establish European regulations which will guarantee the safety of both recreational and professional drone applications. During the first Amsterdam Drone Week (ADW), which takes place from 26 to 30 November, a declaration will be signed which includes priorities agreed by the European Commission, EASA, the European Member States and the participants of the conference on how to continue the work to enable this new aviation sector to flourish in the best and safest way possible.
Relatively new sector
The Amsterdam Drone Week is an initiative by RAI Amsterdam CEO Paul Riemens, the former CEO of Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL). During the event, the Executive Director of EASA, Patrick Ky, will provide an overview on the new European regulations for drones, while ADW partners Boeing, Airbus and Uber will also be unveiling their plans for the future.
It is crucial to establish European harmonisation regarding the regulations for this relatively new aviation sector, says EASA’s Executive Director Patrick Ky: “We can compare it to the start of internet. Anyone can build a drone or develop an app and you can buy drones that offer astonishing technical performances for €500 or less. Things are moving swiftly in the professional field as well, with drones being used to inspect bridges and buildings, perform research and supply aid. The number of potential applications is huge, and we are only at the start of developments in this rapidly growing sector.”
Importance of uniform regulations
The fact that developments are happening so quickly is precisely why uniform regulations for the whole of Europe are required. “It’s a booming sector that offers many jobs and opportunities”, Ky continues. “Growth is a good thing, but we should maintain a certain degree of control.” Member states currently all have their own regulations which means that safety has been addressed however those regulations are not harmonised. Drones can fly at a higher altitude in some countries than in others, for instance. This generates confusion which then could lead to unsafe situations, especially in border regions. “Member states understand the urgency to do something about this”, adds Ky.
The EASA proposal follows a risk based approach and divides drones into three categories, each with its own rules. Some regulations apply to all drones (no flying near military bases or nuclear reactors), while others only relate to anticipated professional use of drones. The greater the potential risks, the more stringent the rules must be.
EASA defines requirements for (professional) pilots of drones and the way drones are handled depending on the potential risks of the operation. “This is because piloting a drone in stadiums or cities, for instance, carries the most risks”, Ky explains. “A 20 kg drone flying over the heads of children or our homes can be the source of major safety concerns.”
The regulations mainly impact people who fly drones for professional purposes. In such cases users should not only register their machines but also request approval from the authorities and carry out a risk assessment. This procedure is designed to analyse the hazards involved and determine which actions are required to minimise them. “If someone wishes to film a concert or examine cracks in a building, the drone could potentially fall on someone in the venue or on the street. Drone users should map all potential risks and take all necessary measures, such as using barriers to prevent accidents involving people. You could also consider measures such as extra training for the drone pilot.”
For general public use of drones, the maximum altitude has been set at 120 metres, as proposed at an earlier stage. The risk of unsafe situations or even collisions with aircraft are just too high at higher altitudes. Another proposal from EASA involves the obligatory CE-certification which drones need to have in the future (with the exception of toy drones). The CE marking will be accompanied with consumer information, that the operator will find in each drone package, with the “do’s and don’ts” on how to fly a drone without endangering other people. An important element in this framework is a GPS chip which prevents the drone from entering prohibited areas.
The regulations are relatively generic in terms of privacy protection, something which Ky says is a deliberate choice. “We don’t want to prescribe too many regulations in detail. Not filming people in the bathroom is common sense, for example, as is recording situations without permission. Prohibiting cameras in drones is not a possibility.” At a later stage, EASA wants to develop regulations for limiting the sound of drones building on those that have been already included in the CE Marking. “The humming can be very annoying. Hundreds of drones flying in an urban environment would become intolerable so regulation is needed here.”
The proposed regulations are now awaiting assessment by the European Commission and Ky expects a decision to be made early in 2019. The regulations will then be rolled out in the various member states next year or by 2020.
About Amsterdam Drone Week
Amsterdam Drone Week will take place from 26 to 30 November. Partners include aircraft manufacturers Boeing, Bell and Airbus as well as (passenger) transport companies Uber and IDS Cooperation. The Dutch minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, is ambassador for the week in which representatives from start-ups, technology firms and scientific institutes will come together with policy makers from various countries. The programme includes several European conferences and a clear focus on the latest technological developments. There will also be (flight) demonstrations with the latest generation of drones and of special applications. According to Paul Riemens, CEO of RAI Amsterdam and originator of the initiative,Amsterdam is the ideal home base for the event due to its excellent reachability via Airport Schiphol, the many developments in the field of technology, and its attractive range of hotel facilities.
About RAI Amsterdam
Bringing together people, physically and virtually, expands borders and inspires. RAI Amsterdam has been connecting different worlds, people and markets in the Netherlands and abroad since 1893. The RAI is an international exhibition and conference organisation that organises national and international events and operates the RAI Convention Centre in the Zuidas business district in Amsterdam. RAI Amsterdam welcomes some 1.5 million visitors a year to around 500 events, including exhibitions, conferences, corporate and other events. In addition, it supplies eventrelated services to organisers, exhibitors and visitors. See www.rai.nl.