CHAPTER 4: PROPORTIONATE SAFETY REGULATIONS
FOR RPAS |
Safety equivalence between manned
aircraft and RPAS
82. As we noted in Chapter 2, there are two broad
categories of safety regulations in the aviation industry: regulations
regarding airworthiness, which relate to the safety of the hardware
of the aircraft; and operations regulations, which relate to the
competence of the operator and compliance with rules of the air.
The Communication states that the integration of RPAS into the
European aviation system should be based on the principle that
safety must not be compromised. RPAS operations should exhibit
an "equivalent level of safety in comparison to manned aviation".
But the Communication also states that "The regulatory framework
should reflect the wide variety of aircraft and operations, keep
rules proportionate to the potential risk and contain the administrative
burden for industry and for the supervisory authorities."
A key theme for the inquiry was to establish how these two requirements
could be reconciled.
83. What determines an "equivalent level
of safety" between manned and unmanned aircraft is, in itself,
open to interpretation. AeroSynergy Certification Ltd said one
form of airworthiness equivalence between manned aircraft and
RPAS would be, "the minimum required to maintain the tolerable
accident rate equivalent to that of a manned aircraft of similar
size or type." Even this was subject to qualification, since
for "RPAS of a size and weight below that of known manned
aircraft, such comparisons become more difficult."
84. NATS suggested an alternative view of operational
equivalence, whereby RPAS could "comply with the appropriate
airspace rules", and thus become "managed in such a
way that they do not negatively impact other airspace users".
While this form of operational equivalence is applicable to large
RPAS, which would fly in non-segregated airspace and use air traffic
management services, it could not apply to small RPAS, which tend
to fly without the support of air traffic management.
85. The differences in interpretation of equivalence
make it difficult to draft regulations which require equivalent
levels of safety between small RPAS (those weighing less than
20kg) and manned aircraft. Mr Sivel, of JARUS, said that
the aviation system was not prepared for such small aircraft:
"On the larger end it is an aircraft and you have to adapt.
On the lower end it is brand new."
86. With respect to small RPAS, the adoption
of a proportionate approach with regards to airworthiness and
operational regulations may be more appropriate than simple equivalence
to manned aircraft. Trevor Woods, of EASA, suggested that such
an approach would consider "the operation to look at the
risks that the operation produces".
NATS suggested that "regulators should assess the particular
risk to manned aviation", and ask themselves whether a small
RPAS was "safe enough to undertake that particular task in
that particular airspace".
87. A proportionate approach which considered
risks on a case-by-case basis would differ from the classic approach
adopted for manned aircraft. Mr Sivel described the classic
process as: "You certify the aircraft, you certify the airman,
you certify the operator, and then it can fly in airspace",
considering each risk factor in isolation.
In contrast Mr Rahouja, of DG MOVE, said that a proportionate
approach to risk for small RPAS would adopt the principle that
"the first purpose is safety not only of the machines but
of the operations
we need to find a way of defining the
risk and then regulating accordingly to address that risk."
He referred to this as a "risk-based" approach, that
is to say an approach where the airworthiness and pilot competency
requirements are proportionate to the risk that an RPAS flight
presents to third parties.
88. One strength of a risk-based approach is
that it could take into account the variability of small RPAS
models, types and applications, a significant challenge to developing
regulations for commercial small-RPAS operations. The Royal Aeronautical
Society said that without adopting a risk-based approach, it would
"be difficult to develop a blanket regulation for such a
wide variety of air vehicles and sub-systems", a point echoed
by the Honourable Company of Airline Pilots: "Regulation
must reflect and address the potential range of RPAS sizes and
89. A benefit of a risk-based approach to safety
regulations for small RPAS is that businesses would only be required
to conform to safety standards where appropriate. This is already
the case in the UK under CAP 722. Gerry Corbett, of the CAA, said:
"Clearly, if you are operating somewhere
where there is very little risk to people on the ground or in
the air, you can be a little less fixed with some of the requirements
for the aircraft, as opposed to an unmanned aircraft flying over
London for example where you need to tighten up the requirements
a lot more."
90. Mr Sivel told us that countries which
adopted a proportionate or risk-based approach to regulations
"almost all now have rules in place, and they almost all
certify operators." He continued:
"To give you an example, in the UK a month
ago there were 300 certified operators. The country per inhabitant
that has the most certified operators in Europe is Sweden, and
then France, and then Norway. All these countries have taken a
risk-based approach. If you take another very large country, the
United States, that did not take the risk-based approach. Today
they do not have a single certified operator."
91. The impact on regulators of taking a risk-based
approach to regulations for small RPAS in commercial operations
was also discussed. Mr Woods, of EASA, said such an approach
would be an efficient use of resources for regulators:
"According to the way that the risk is managed,
perhaps there may be a category that does not need very much oversight
but the label on the box and this kind of thing is sufficient
for the very small machines. I think this emphasises the need
for a proportionate approach, otherwise we will need so many resources
to regulate it that it will not be possible".
In contrast, BALPA said that "light touch regulation
(which is being adopted more and more in other aviation areas)
or self-regulation will struggle", highlighting the difficulty
in enforcing such an approach.
RECONCILING REGULATIONS FOR LARGE
AND SMALL RPAS
92. A fundamental issue throughout the inquiry
was how the two approaches to regulating large and small RPAS,
one of which seeks equivalence with manned aircraft, and while
the other adopts a risk-based approach to risk in all forms, could
be reconciled within one regulatory framework. Mr Woods,
of EASA, said that the two approaches would reflect two sides
of the spectrum on regulations: "we need to look at it as
a complete approach from very small to very large aircraft, with
a continuum where the safety assessment of the operation is more
important at one end and the certification at the other".
Mr Corbett, of the CAA, said that between the extremes of
very small and very large RPAS "there
is a bit of
flexibility on a moving scale so that some [regulation] can be
done on the basis of a safety case in some areas, depending on
where the operation is taking place."
93. On the other hand, we heard that regulations
for large RPAS could also benefit from the flexibility of a risk-
based approach. Mr Sivel told us that unmanned RPAS, of whatever
size, differed significantly from manned aircraft, as there was
no longer a need to protect people on board.
In this respect, as Thales UK noted, RPAS are "disruptive
and [challenge] many aspects of aviation law which has evolved
over the past hundred years or so."
94. The Honourable Company of Airline Pilots
said that "draconian rules applied to a larger RPAS that
was only operated over the sea/sparsely populated areas would
close off potential RPAS development areas to EU industry and
Mr Rahouja noted that Airbus had recently submitted a large
RPAS for airworthiness certification by EASA, adding: "Our
discussion so far has been about the limited-weight RPAS, but
this will be a first step towards a general concept of how and
when and why or where
we can operate a large RPAS in an
international or European environment."
95. It was also unclear how weight, a significant
factor in manned aviation regulations, would be applied to risk-based
regulations for small RPAS. Mr Sivel said the idea was "to
take the weight out. There will be a weight factor, of course,
but it is only one component of the risk assessment."
Mr Meuleman, of BeUAS, who helped to design legislation for
small RPAS use in Belgium, agreed: "Weight is only one factor.
It is an important one, but not the only one".
The Minister referred to an extreme example of a very small RPAS
being flown around inside a shop: "we need to think about
the point at which we say, 'These are toys. They cannot be hazardous
to the general public and they should be outside of the regulation'.
I think the weight of the vehicle would probably determine that."
96. We support the Commission's move towards
adopting a risk-based approach to safety regulations for RPAS.
Not only would this approach, which considers the characteristics
of the RPAS flight, accommodate the variation in size of RPAS,
but it would also avoid burdensome regulations for businesses.
Pilot training and licensing
for small RPAS operators
97. Pilot training and licensing demonstrate
still more clearly the value of a proportionate, risk-based approach.
In manned aviation, an international system for recognising pilot
qualifications has been in existence for decades. The same cannot
be said for RPAS. While many EU Member States require commercial
RPAS pilots to demonstrate competence for specific devices or
activities, and to obtain permission from the national aviation
authority to carry out aerial work, in the absence of EU-wide
rules there is a degree of variation. Peter Lee, of Taylor Vinters
LLP, said: "it is not at all straightforward for an experienced
UK qualified-RPAS pilot to travel and offer his or her services
in another Member State. The complexity of different national
regimes therefore risks stifling the development of the small
RPAS services industry."
98. BALPA and Alan Mckenna recommended that all
small RPAS commercial pilots should be required to undertake training
to obtain a licence.
However, the standard of training proportionate to the operation
of a small RPAS was disputed. Captain Andy Brown, of BALPA, said
a more comprehensive pilot's licence for operators of RPAS weighing
7-20kg should be a requirement: "It might not be as comprehensive
as an airline transport pilot's licence, and it would certainly
be slightly different, but it would be towards that sort of level."
Gareth Roberts, a trainer and consultant on RPAS use by public
service agencies, said that a set of "legal minimum standards"
and career education up to and including a level 7 qualification
(equivalent to a Master's degree') should be developed.
This could be done along similar lines to the Private Pilot's
Licence (PPL) or commercial pilots licence.
99. On the other hand, Professor Keith Hayward,
of The Royal Aeronautical Society, was conscious that "if
you overqualify your pilot, your controller, and require him or
her to invest a considerable amount of money in that process,
it will considerably inhibit the development of the kind of downstream
activities that we want to see developed for a future economy."
100. Yet the risks of pilot error are clear.
Philip Heath, of John Heath Insurance Brokers LLP, said: "In
general terms, 5% of our operators have had an incident that we
can attribute to pilot error. Generally, incidents occur within
the first 12 months [of operating], which, to us, indicates that
inexperience is, perhaps, a key factor." He suggested that,
as long as costs were kept proportionate, it should be mandatory
to include "some form of flight training as an obligation".
101. Witnesses also reflected on who should deliver
this training and how they should be regulated. In the UK, the
CAA demands that pilots of any aircraft have at least a basic
understanding of the applicable regulations, in particular the
Air Navigation Order and Rules of the Air Regulations. The CAA
requires potential commercial RPAS pilots to demonstrate that
they are sufficiently competent before any operating permission
is issued. It recognises qualifications issued by two Qualified
Entities (EuroUSC and Resource Group Ltd) as proof of pilot competence.
102. Mr Roberts, though, expressed concern
about the private sector provision and certification of RPAS pilot
training: "These training initiatives are uncoordinated and
often purely 'commercial' endeavours and do little to enhance
the new trade."
Mr McKenna said that there should not only be a "requisite
standard recognised across Europe, but that there should be adequate
competition amongst such certification providers."
103. Mr Meuleman said that there had been
complaints about a company in the Netherlands carrying out this
work, which was "quite expensive." Private companies
might work, but "it should be within limits, yes, because
they are private companies, and their own goal is to earn money".
104. In contrast, EuroUSC argued strongly in
favour of using private organisations, similar to the UK's Qualified
Entities (of which EuroUSC itself is one), to alleviate the pressure
on national authorities and to satisfy growing demand for pilot
training. It also said that such certified entities could "dynamically
harmonise" approachesfor example, a Qualified Entity
could operate simultaneously in two or more countries if it satisfied
all relevant national criteria.
105. We recommend that commercial RPAS pilots
operating in the EU should be assessed for their competence to
fly safely to a level which reflects the risk of the operation
to be undertaken. EU-wide guidance on grades of pilot competence
should be produced to support the development of the internal
market and improve the quality of training received across the
106. At present, RPAS with an operating mass
of more than 150kg are subject to European Regulation (EC) No.
216/2008, which enforces airworthiness standards. But RPAS below
20kg, the sector where most commercial RPAS operations are currently
taking place, are subject to few existing standards or assessments.
While an airworthiness standard refers to the quality of the product
when manufactured, an airworthiness assessment considers the maintenance
of a system which has been in operation.
107. The Royal Aeronautical Society said: "The
EC has not included improved airworthiness as a priority for the
development of the civil [RPAS] market. We believe this needs
to be added as a matter of urgency." It said that airworthiness
requirements were essential in order to ensure the safety of the
different types of RPAS available in this expanding market.
108. Resource Group Ltd agreed that the lack
of airworthiness standards for small RPAS was a "weakness
of the industry".
The Government confirmed that there were no specific airworthiness
standards in the UK for RPAS with a mass of 20kg or less:
"Specific standards for such small aircraft
would be disproportionate to the size and relative risk to third
parties. It is the responsibility of the 'person in charge' of
the [RPAS] to satisfy him/herself that the flight can be safely
manned and, while flying the [RPAS], he/she is required to operate
it in a way that will not endanger any person or property."
109. Mr Sivel suggested that there was a
risk that a lack of European airworthiness standards for small
RPAS would result in manufacturers adopting standards produced
by Europe's competitors, such as the USA. He said that EUROCAE,
through Working Group 93, was hoping to develop standards by 2016,
but that the quality of these standards would not be sacrificed
in order to meet this deadline.
110. We asked the Commission whether it had considered
using the CE marking scheme, as a short-term alternative to conventional
aviation airworthiness standards, to introduce some basic standards
into the small RPAS sector. A CE marking is the manufacturers'
declaration that a product meets the requirements of applicable
111. Mr Rahuoja confirmed that the Commission
was examining this option. He said that the advantage of such
a scheme was that it would "avoid a certification process,
which may be burdensome for both the administration and industry".
Mr De Vos, also of DG MOVE, added that this approach would
also help to reduce compliance costs, because products could be
tested by regulators but also by competitive businesses in an
industry: "some companies, which see that their market is
taken away by products that do not satisfy that CE marking but
which are brought on the market, go to some supermarket and perform
their own tests."
112. However, Mr Heath, of John Heath Insurance
Brokers LLP, said that the CE marking would be relevant only to
a device that had been manufactured as an entire unit, and that
it would be difficult to apply to a self-build RPAS.
113. Airworthiness standards would need to be
complemented by ongoing assessments of the RPAS after use, to
ensure that a level of safety is maintained. Mr Heath said
that "Approximately 10% of our operators have been involved
in an incident that could be related to airworthiness and, in
our view, anything that can reduce the risk of an incident has
to be welcomed." On the other hand, he cast doubt on the
feasibility of asking pilots of RPAS weighing under 20kg to be
responsible for the ongoing airworthiness of their aircraft: "Most
of the operators that we are seeing are photographers. They are
not engineers and they do not possess scientific or engineering
knowledge." He also highlighted other issues to consider,
such as how often airworthiness assessments were carried out,
who would carry them out and the cost to the operator.
114. The Government noted that in certain circumstances
the CAA might require additional airworthiness assessments for
RPAS, for example for flights over people, or flights beyond the
visual line of sight of the pilot.
115. EuroUSC also highlighted the current differences
in approach between Member States on this issue. Germany and France
simply required RPAS pilots to declare themselves to the relevant
regulator, without having to submit their aircraft to any checks,
while the Netherlands and Malta subjected all RPAS to an airworthiness
assessment (a requirement formalised in September 2014).
116. We support the ongoing development of
EU airworthiness standards for small RPAS. These standards should
be, as far as possible, consistent with emerging international
approaches, particularly that of the USA. The requirement for
airworthiness standards should depend on the type of RPAS operation.
117. We recommend that the Commission quickly
considers requiring CE marking for small toy-like RPAS (below
2kg). While this is not an airworthiness standard, and would not
compensate for pilot error, it would introduce basic quality standards
for these products.
118. In addition, we believe airworthiness
assessments can improve the safety of RPAS operations, and we
encourage the Commission to consider creating guidance on this
for national aviation authorities.
95 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, p 5 Back
Ibid p 5 Back
Written evidence from Aerosynergy
Certification Ltd (RPA0001) Back
Written evidence from NATS (RPA0036) Back
Written evidence from NATS (RPA0036) Back
Written evidence from the Royal Aeronautical Society (RPA0018)
and the Honourable Company of Airline Pilots (RPA0022) Back
Q57 (Trevor Woods) Back
Written evidence from BALPA (RPA0031) Back
Written evidence from Thales UK (RPA 0042) Back
Written evidence from the Honourable Company of Airline Pilots
Q178 (Robert Goodwill MP) Back
Written evidence from Peter Lee (RPA0040) Back
Written evidence from BALPA (RPA0031) and Alan McKenna (RPA0025) Back
H M Government, 'National Framework of Qualifications in the UK':
[accessed on 27 January 2015] Back
Written evidence from Gareth Roberts (RPA0002) Back
Written evidence from Gareth Roberts (RPA0002) Back
Written evidence from Alan Mckenna (RPA0025) Back
Written evidence from EuroUSC (RPA0037) Back
Written evidence from the Royal Aeronautical Society (RPA0018) Back
Written evidence from Resource Group Ltd (RPA0009) Back
Written evidence from the Department for Transport (RPA0011) Back
By affixing the CE marking to a product, a manufacturer declares,
on his sole responsibility, that the product has been assessed
before being placed on the market and thus satisfies the applicable
legislative requirements (for example, a harmonised level of safety)
enabling it to be sold in the EU. The scheme only applies to product
categories mentioned in EU directives on the CE marking. Distributors
must check that the product bears the CE marking and that the
requisite supporting documentation is in order. If the product
is being imported from outside the EU, the importer has to verify
that the manufacturer has undertaken the necessary steps and that
the supporting documentation is available upon request. Back
Written evidence from the Department for Transport (RPA0011) Back
Written evidence from EuroUSC (RPA0037) Back