In December 2018, two unauthorised UAVs sighted near London’s Gatwick Airport forced the authorities there to ground aircraft for 36 hours, causing chaos for more than 140,000 commercial and business passengers, and costing the airport’s partners and stakeholders an estimated £50m.
Drone safety concerns
The European Commission (EC) has responded by adopting EU rules to ensure that increasing drone traffic is safe and secure on the ground and in the air. The rules will replace existing national laws in EU member states, and apply to both professional operators and those flying drones for leisure.
GlobalData Airport Technology says: “At first glance, the new common rules will make operating drones commercially and recreationally across European borders easier and safer. As the EU Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) points out, the requirement that drones be registered and individually identifiable will both reduce the likelihood of another major incident like the one at Gatwick in 2018, and make it much easier to trace the owner.
“However, while the common rules replace existing national regulations in individual EU countries, member states will also be able to define so-called ‘no-fly zones’ (these may include airports and airfields, or city centres) where, through satellite geo-location, drones will not be permitted to enter, as well as areas where UAVs are allowed more freedom, such as beyond line of sight (BVLOS) flights.
“The EASA plans to publish guidance material and a proposal for two “standard scenarios” later this year to help drone operators comply with the adopted rules. Towards the end of 2019, EASA will make a proposal to the EC for U-space service regulation to enable complex drone operations with a high degree of automation.
“Stakeholders will be given the opportunity to discuss the new rules and the upcoming regulatory proposal during the next High Level Conference on Drones on 5-6 December, which takes place during Amsterdam Drone Week. The event will bring together regulatory bodies and industry experts from around the world to discuss what could be the next significant stage in the evolution of the technology – a common European market for drones.”
Describing the new guidelines, Patrick Ky, executive director of EASA, stated: “Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring safe, secure and sustainable operations of drones – both for commercial and leisure activities. Common rules will help foster investment, innovation and growth in this promising sector.”