The European Commission is carrying out an in-depth impact assessment this year to examine the issues presented by drones and how best to address them.

European Commission Proposing Standards for Commercial Drones

"They come in all shapes and sizes. In the future, they may even deliver books from your favorite online retailer. But many people, including myself, have concerns about the safety, security, and privacy issues relating to these devices," Siim Kallas, commissioner for mobility and transport, said when the commission announced them earlier this month.

The European Commission recently proposed new standards to regulate the use of civil drones; the standards will cover safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance, and liability. The goal is to allow European industry to become a global leader in the market for this emerging technology while ensuring that all necessary safeguards are in place.

The commission is conducting an in-depth assessment this year of the issues presented by commercial drones, which are increasingly being used in Europe, in countries such as Sweden, France, and Britain, in different sectors. Basic national safety rules apply, but the rules differ across the EU, and the commission believes several key safeguards are not addressed in a coherent way.

"Civil drones can check for damage on road and rail bridges, monitor natural disasters such as flooding, and spray crops with pinpoint accuracy. They come in all shapes and sizes. In the future, they may even deliver books from your favorite online retailer. But many people, including myself, have concerns about the safety, security and privacy issues relating to these devices," said Vice-President Siim Kallas, commissioner for mobility and transport.

"If ever there was a right time to do this, and to do this at a European level, it is now. Because remotely piloted aircraft, almost by definition, are going to cross borders and the industry is still in its infancy. We have an opportunity now to make a single set of rules that everyone can work with, just like we do for larger aircraft," Kallas added.

The new standards will cover these areas:

  • Strict EU-wide rules on safety authorizations that are based on the principle that remotely piloted aircraft must provide an equivalent level of safety to manned aviation operations. The European Aviation Safety Agency will start developing specific EU-wide standards for remotely piloted aircraft.
  • Data collected by remotely piloted aircraft must comply with the applicable data protection rules, and data protection authorities must monitor the subsequent collection and processing of personal data. The commission will assess how to ensure data protection rules apply fully to remotely piloted aircraft and propose changes or specific guidance where needed.
  • Controls to ensure security. Civil drones can be subject to potential unlawful actions and security threats, like other aircraft. EASA will start work to develop the necessary security requirements, particularly to protect information streams, and then propose specific legal obligations for all parties (e.g., air traffic management, the operator, telecom service providers), to be enforced by national authorities.
  • A clear framework for liability and insurance. The current third-party insurance regime has been established mostly in terms of manned aircraft, where mass (starting from 500 kg) determines the minimum amount of insurance. The commission will assess the need to amend current rules to take remotely piloted aircraft into account.
  • The commission will streamline R&D work, in particular the EU R&D funds managed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, to keep lead times for promising technologies for the insertion of remotely piloted aircraft into the European airspace as soon as possible.

After the commission finishes its impact assessment, a legislative proposal may be drafted to be approved by member states and the European Parliament. Meanwhile, EASA can immediately start to develop the necessary safety standards.

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