Civilian Use of Drones in the EU |
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1. 2014 could be described as the year of the
drone. Airwaves and newspaper columns were filled with the news
that Amazon planned to use drones for parcel delivery, while nationalist
football fans used one to disrupt a match between Serbia and Albania.
As the year drew on, drones were found 'buzzing' close to a nuclear
power station in France, and a near miss was reported between
a small drone and a passenger aircraft landing at Heathrow airport.
2. Underlying this increased media interest has
been a rapid growth in the commercial use of drones, more correctly
referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In the UK alone, there are now over 600
permissions for commercial RPAS operations enabling many companies
to provide services such as photography and land surveying. RPAS
have become increasingly popular as an alternative to the use
of manned aircraft for aerial surveillance; in future they could
be used to carry out many more tasks, such as search and rescue,
deliveries and construction repair work. Alongside the expansion
in the commercial use of RPAS, they have become increasingly popular
for private, leisure users. The Daily Mail described them
in December 2014 as "this year's must-have gadget".
3. In October 2012 the European Commission issued
a Staff Working Paper
entitled Towards a European Strategy for the development of
Civil Applications of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS),
and established a European RPAS Steering Group. In June 2013,
the steering group presented its recommendations to the Commission
in its Roadmap for the Integration of Civil Remotely Piloted
The roadmap set out a step-by-step approach and timeline for integrating
RPAS into the airspace.
4. Then in April 2014, the Commission published
a Communication entitled A new era for aviation, setting
out its views on the future regulation of civilian Remotely Piloted
Aircraft Systems (RPAS) operations in the EU.
The Communication builds on the roadmap produced by the European
RPAS Steering Group, and sets out the Commission's views on how
to establish a policy framework that will "enable the growth
of the commercial RPAS market while safeguarding the public interest".
5. At the launch of the Communication, Siim Kallas,
the then Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner
for Mobility and Transport, said:
"If ever there was a right time to do this,
and to do this at a European level, it is now. Because remotely
piloted aircraft, almost by definition, are going to cross borders
and the industry is still in its infancy. We have an opportunity
now to make a single set of rules that everyone can work with,
just like we do for larger aircraft." 
6. The initial aim of our inquiry was to assess
whether we thought that the Commission had prioritised the correct
issues to ensure growth in the RPAS market. A further aim was
to feed into the development of RPAS regulations at EU level.
The Commission, in evidence to the inquiry, said that it was "open
to suggestions from stakeholders to address the issues to make
the creation of the EU RPAS market possible".
We have taken up that invitation.
7. We have also investigated the issues which
will affect the growth of the RPAS market, including the requirements
for safe operations and airworthiness. We have considered societal
concerns around the increasing use of RPAS, particularly in respect
of data protection and privacy. Our consideration of all these
issues has taken account of technological developments, as well
as the over-arching question of where competence for rule-making
8. In the course of our inquiry we visited Cranfield
University to see first-hand the rapid deployment and data collection
capabilities of RPAS to assist in situations such as accident
investigation. The Committee also discussed the potential growth
of the RPAS market with the European Commission and officials
from European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and EUROCONTROL.
9. We would like to thank all those witnesses
who appeared before us, or who submitted written evidence, for
their significant contribution to the Report. They included both
small and large companies working in the RPAS industry, RPAS trade
associations, and support services such as pilot training organisations.
10. We make this report to the House for debate.
1 "As cheap as £28, they're Christmas must-haves.
But after a near-miss with a plane at Heathrow
the ultimate boys' toys or a godsend for snoopers and terrorists?",
Daily Mail (12 December 2014): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2870937/As-cheap-28-Christmas-haves-near-miss-plane-Heathrow-Drones-ultimate-boys-toys-godsend-snoopers-terrorists.html
[accessed on 23 January 2015] Back
Commission Staff Working Document, Towards a European strategy
for the development of civil applications of Remotely Piloted
Aircraft Systems (RPAS). SWD(2012) 259 Back
European RPAS Steering Group, Roadmap for the Integration of
Civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems into the European Aviation
System (June 2013): http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/aerospace/files/rpas-roadmap_en.pdf
[accessed on 10 February2015] Back
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and
the Council: A new era for aviation: Opening the aviation market
for the civil use of remotely piloted aircraft systems in a safe
and sustainable manner, COM(2014) 607 Back
European Commission 'European Commission calls for tough standards
to regulate civil drones', (8 April 2014): http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/kallas/headlines/news/2014/04/drones_en.htm
[accessed on 21 January 2015] Back