On 31 July 2015, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published its Consultation Document for the "Introduction of a regulatory framework for the operation of drones", The EASA Consultation Document outlines a possible regulatory framework for drone operations as well as concrete proposals for the regulation of low-risk drone operations and is open to comments by any person or organisation suggesting the development of a new rule or an amendment thereto until 25 September 2015.
The drone industry is diverse, innovative and international. It has an enormous potential for growth with the associated possibility to create jobs. To ensure a safe, secure and environmentally friendly development, and to respect the citizens’ legitimate concerns for privacy and data protection, EASAhas been tasked by the European Commission — following the Riga Conference and its associatedRiga Declaration — to develop a regulatory framework for drone operations as well as concrete proposals for the regulation of low-risk drone operations. Both aspects, a regulatory framework for drone operations and proposals for the regulation of low-risk drone operations are included in this consultation document together with a chapter containing background information.
Principles for and Categories of Drone Operation
The EASA Consultation Document reflects the principles laid down in the Riga Declaration. It follows a risk- and performance-based approach; it is progressive- and operation-centric. It introduces three categories of operations as already proposed in the published EASA Concept of Operations for Drones:
‘Open’ category (low risk): Safety is ensured through operational limitations, compliance with industry standards, requirements on certain functionalities, and a minimum set of operational rules. Enforcement shall be ensured by the police.
‘Specific operation’ category (medium risk): Authorisation by National Aviation Authorities (NAAs), possibly assisted by a Qualified Entity (QE) following a risk assessment performed by the operator. A manual of operations shall list the risk mitigation measures.
‘Certified’ category (higher risk): Requirements comparable to manned aviation requirements. Oversight by NAAs (issue of licences and approval of maintenance, operations, training, Air Traffic Management (ATM)/Air Navigation Services (ANS) and aerodrome organisations) and by EASA (design and approval of foreign organisations).
This regulatory framework will encompass European rules for all drones in all weight classes. The amendments to Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 which are under way will reflect the above. This change will be part of the ‘aviation package’ legislative proposal to be issued in November 2015 by the European Commission.
Following this consultation, which shall end in 25 September 2015, the Agency will submit a technical opinion to the European Commission by the end of 2015.