Europe Advances Small Drone Regulations, ‘U-Space’ System

A German-made microdrones md4-1000 quadcopter is depicted operating in an urban environment. (Photo: microdrones)

Policymakers plan to complete work this summer on rules allowing for uniform operation of small drones within European Union member states. The European Commission (EC) is also advancing a “U-Space” drone traffic management system comparable to the UTMmodel in the U.S., with the goal of “making drones part of the European citizens’ daily lives by 2019.”

The EC, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament plan “trilogue” meetings in February to reconcile their positions on amending the framing regulation of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to incorporate drones. They aim to complete the process by mid-year, said Greg Guice, a U.S. attorney who serves as manager and director of operations of the Brussels-based Drone Alliance Europe (DAE). Guice provided an update on European drone policy at the January 11 meeting of the International Aviation Club in Washington, D.C.

Revisions of EASA’s Basic Regulation will introduce EU-wide rules for drones, establishing design and operation requirements to ensure safety. Currently, individual nations have responsibility for drones weighing less than 150 kg (330 pounds). Last August, EASAreleased a more specific “prototype” regulation for consultation by member states; it proposes risk-based rules for two groups of drone operations—an “open” category that is minimally restrictive and a “specific” category that requires prior authorization of an operation. The draft regulation did not address a third, “certified” category, that EASAintends for larger drones that will fly with manned aircraft in unrestricted airspace.

EASA in November convened an expert working group to review the draft regulations. The EU aviation safety agency based in Cologne, Germany, plans to release a notice of proposed amendment in March, Guice said.

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