Drones Amsterdam Declaration. The European Union supports the development of an innovative sector

On 28 November 2018, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Commission, the European and national authorities adopted the Drones Amsterdam Declaration at the conclusion of a High Level Drone Conference held in the Capital of the Netherlands.

The category of unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, includes aircrafts similar in size and complexity to manned aircrafts, but also very small consumer electronic aircrafts. Generally, “drones” means aircrafts operating or designed to operate autonomously or to be piloted remotely without a pilot on board.

Since the Aviation Strategy provided by the Commission in 2015, unmanned aircraft technologies have been growing fast. The Declaration takes into account this innovation, envisioning certain steps that should be implemented with the maximum cooperation by the stakeholders and Member States, in order to create a common European drone services market.

Firstly, the Declaration explains that one of the priorities should be to provide support to Member States in the implementation of drones technical rules, in particular to enable drone flights over longer distances. Under the recent Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Union Aviation Safety Agency, the Commission affirmed its competence with regard to unmanned aircrafts (e.g. article 2). Some of the measures provided for by the new Regulation will be applicable by the first quarter of 2019 with the aim of creating a European common regulatory framework applicable to all drones’ categories. The Declaration also invites the Commission and EASA, in cooperation with Member States, to develop in practice that framework. In particular, the European Union should create product standards for drones as they are considered a priority by industries in order to realize the first commercial services by drone.

Secondly, the Declaration highlights that the European U-space Demonstrators Network will be instrumental in order to envelop U-space projects, carried out to advance safe, secure and green drone operations and to develop U-space system.  U-spaceis a set of new services relying on digitalization and automation of functions and procedures to support access to airspace for drones, it also facilitates any routine mission, while addressing an appropriate interface with manned aviation and air traffic control.

This network has been created on 19 October 2018 by the Commission with the support of the EUROCONTROL, the intergovernmental organization committed to the Single European Sky (SES) initiative, along with the EASA and SESAR Joint Undertaking. The latter is a public-private partnership set up in order to manage the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR).

Nonetheless, research and development are a necessary key enabler for this industry and the SESAR Joint Undertaking has funded, over the course of 18 months, six demonstrations in cities and rural locations of several countries in Europe. This launch is the second batch of European U-space demonstration projects and the Declaration calls upon this network to maintain its pace.

Finally, the Declaration aims to push towards integrated smart mobility solutions, engaging European cities and local communities to integrate innovative multimodal solutions also involving drones into the urban plans with the support the European Smart Cities and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) initiatives. The Conference has urged that priority must be given to developing communication and promotion campaigns on new technologies addressed to local authorities and citizens so that the development of the drone services market may take into consideration also societal concerns and local needs.


Davide Scavuzzo