The Council of the EU has adopted new rules for safety of drones

On 26 June 2018 the Council of the European Union adopted a new regulationon common rules in the field of civil aviation introducing updated aviation safety rules, which include a revised mandate for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the first ever EU-wide rules for civil drones of all sizes.On 12 June 2018 the European Parliament had already approved with 558 votes in favour, 71 against and 48 abstentions the provisional agreement reached between Council and Parliament negotiators in November 2017.

Drones are unmanned aircraft, originally developed for military use. Today they are also used for a range of civilian activities. Heavy drones weighing 150 kg or more fall under EU safety legislation for the aviation sector while lighter drones fall under differing national rules, which can hamper market development in an industry that in 10 years could account for 10% of the EU’s aviation market.

The new rules will apply to all drone parts to ensure that operators and manufacturers respect safety, privacy, personal data and the environment.Under new rules, drones would need to be designed so that they can be operated without putting people at risk. Based on risk related to, for example, the weight of the drone or the area of operation, the drone would need additional features, such as automated landing in case the operator loses contact with the drone or collision avoidance systems.

Some drone operators would be required to go through training before they can operate a drone, because they need to be aware of all the rules that apply to them and must be able to operate a drone safely, without putting people or other airspace users at risk.With the exception of the smallest drone operators, all other operators would need to be on national registers and their drones marked for identification to help identify the drone operators if there is an incident.

The European Commission, with the help of EASA, is tasked with developing more detailed EU-wide rules, such as maximum altitude and distance limits for drone flight, and which drone operations and drones would need to be certified based on the risk they pose. The rules would also determine which operators need additional training and to be registered and which drones would need to have additional safety features.

The new rules adopted by the Council update also the EU safety legislation for the aviation sector by boosting the cooperation between the EU Aviation Safety Agency and national authorities when assessing risks in regard to flights over conflict zones and by mandating the Commission to develop standards for downloading data from flight recorders in real time when an aircraft is in distress, to speed up emergency response.

The regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication on the EU Official Journal, which is expected by the end of July.


Davide Scavuzzo