Civilian Use of Drones in the EU - European Union Committee Contents

Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations

Reviewing the regulatory framework

1.  We support the Commission's aim to create an internal market for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in the EU. EU rules on safety rules will be needed to achieve this, but we recognise the concerns expressed by small RPAS businesses that such rules risk stifling the existing industry. We recommend that EU rules for small RPAS should be flexible enough for Member States to respond to, and support local industry. (Paragraph 64)

2.  The Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS), through its flexible structure, has the potential quickly to draft safety regulations for the use of RPAS. Working through JARUS should ensure that any future EU rules will be compatible with international arrangements in other countries. (Paragraph 74)

3.  However, stakeholders had legitimate concerns about the transparency and capability of JARUS. We welcome JARUS' intention to involve industry more in its work. To increase the organisation's transparency and improve its reputation, we recommend that JARUS be organised on a more formal basis, and that it receive more resources from national aviation authorities. (Paragraph 75)

4.  We further recommend that the UK Civil Aviation Authority maintain and strengthen its involvement with JARUS. (Paragraph 76)

5.  Some EU Member States have existing obligations under international treaties, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime, which govern how large RPAS are sold. The Commission will need to consider carefully these obligations as it seeks to create an internal market for RPAS in the EU. (Paragraph 81)

Proportionate Safety Regulations for RPAS

6.  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. (Paragraph 96)

7.  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 EU. (Paragraph 105)

8.  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. (Paragraph 116)

9.  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. (Paragraph 117)

10.  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. (Paragraph 118)

Enabling technologies

11.  We welcome the Commission's support for the development and incorporation of key technologies, which will encourage the growth of the RPAS industry. (Paragraph 121)

12.  RPAS development is currently hampered by a 'chicken and egg' problem: industry is reluctant to invest in developing the necessary technologies without certainty about how they will be regulated, while regulators are reluctant to develop standards until industry comes forward with technologies for validation. ASTRAEA is a good example of how industry and regulators can work together to overcome this challenge through shared funding and early joint working. We recommend that the Commission adopts a similar collaborative approach to forthcoming research projects in the RPAS sector. (Paragraph 133)

13.  As the second phase of the ASTRAEA programme is now complete, we recommend that the UK Government publish a plan setting out how it proposes to build on the programmes outputs. (Paragraph 134)

14.  In light of the evidence we have received, and the example set by ASTRAEA, we recommend that the Commission, the Government and the RPAS industry should work together to explore the creation of an online database through which commercial small RPAS pilots can provide details of their flights (below 500ft) to inform other airspace users. In order to keep the UK and Europe at the forefront of RPAS developments, we recommend that all parties seek to engage with NASA in the USA, which is currently researching the development of such a system. (Paragraph 144)

15.  We recognise that the allocation of spectrum is a Member State competence. The Commission will have to respect this while promoting the use of RPAS in the internal market. We recommend that Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) focus its research on improving the security and integrity of the RPAS command and control link. (Paragraph 151)

16.  The late inclusion of RPAS in the scope of SESAR JU increases the likelihood that the Commission will not meet its timetable for the progressive integration of RPAS into non-segregated airspace. We recommend that a realistic timetable for RPAS integration must be decided as soon as possible. (Paragraph 155)

17.  We recommend that SESAR JU, together with Horizon 2020 and COSME, should focus more on the technological priorities of the small RPAS sector. It should also consider the financial barriers to SMEs' participation in research programmes, and actively seek to increase their involvement. (Paragraph 158)

Data protection and privacy

18.  We do not believe that there should be technology-specific data protection legislation for RPAS. The proposed General Data Protection Regulation is the appropriate vehicle to meet the challenges of increased commercial use of RPAS. At the same time, pilots should be made aware of their obligations under existing data protection legislation as well as the draft Regulation. We recommend that the Commission, through Member States' data protection agencies, create and share specific data protection guidance for commercial RPAS pilots. (Paragraph 172)

19.  We have recommended the creation of an online database through which commercial RPAS pilots could share details of their flights with other airspace users. One of the benefits of such a database would be that RPAS pilots could use it to inform members of the public of their data protection policies to make it easier for individuals to rely on their data protection rights. (Paragraph 174)

20.  While we agree with the principle of encouraging RPAS pilots to carry out Privacy Impact Assessments, care must be taken not to overburden regulators and emerging RPAS businesses. Once the EU General Data Protection Regulation is agreed, we recommend that the Government explain the extent to which it specifically addresses the use of RPAS. (Paragraph 179)

21.  It is beyond the scope of this inquiry, which focuses on commercial operations, to draw conclusions regarding state use of RPAS for surveillance but the acceptability of state use of RPAS should be subject to urgent public debate. (Paragraph 189)

22.  While journalists can use RPAS to enhance the reporting of important events, they can also be used to invade people's privacy. UK media regulators should initiate a public consultation on the appropriate use of RPAS by the media, with a view to providing clear guidance. (Paragraph 194)

Third party liability

23.  While similar equipment may be used by both leisure and commercial RPAS pilots, introducing mandatory third party liability insurance for the leisure use of RPAS would be disproportionate to the hazard posed by such users. (Paragraph 201)

24.  In order to improve the information used to determine third party liability premiums, we recommend that any future EU legislation governing RPAS operations should require national aviation authorities to share statistics regarding RPAS incidents with regulators, insurers and operators in other Member States. (Paragraph 207)

25.  The cost of third party liability insurance premiums is likely to decrease with greater demand from RPAS pilots. We therefore recommend that trade associations and national aviation authorities raise awareness of and enforce commercial RPAS pilots' obligations under EU Regulation 785/2004 to purchase insurance. This will reduce the number of operators running the risk of not taking out insurance and encourage a safer RPAS industry. (Paragraph 213)

26.  To address confusion regarding the scope and applicability of EU Regulation 785/2004, we recommend that the Commission brings forward amendments that would clarify that the legal requirement to purchase public liability insurance depends on whether the RPAS is being used for hobbyist or commercial use. (Paragraph 214)

27.  In line with a risk-based approach to RPAS safety regulations, we recommend that the Commission increases the minimum amount of public liability cover required by commercial RPAS operators under EU Regulation 785/2004. The Regulation currently stipulates a minimum amount of €660,000 for all commercial RPAS weighing up to 500kg. (Paragraph 217)

Leisure users and public consultation

28.  Given the difficulty of engaging with leisure RPAS users through formal representative bodies, we support the Government and Metropolitan Police Service in seeking to make use of websites and social media platforms to inform the public about how to fly RPAS safely. (Paragraph 226)

29.  We commend the work of the UK Civil Aviation Authority in creating a safety message to include in the packaging of RPAS. While the Commission is only proposing regulations for the safe operation of commercial RPAS, we believe it could support Member States by co-ordinating the dissemination of guidance for the leisure use of RPAS, including information on safety and data protection. (Paragraph 230)

30.  Geo-fencing could be a useful tool for preventing hazardous RPAS flights in sensitive areas, but it is not yet universally available. Over the next year, we recommend that the Government, along with the Commission, should approach industry to assess how this technology could be more widely applied. (Paragraph 232)

31.  We endorse the Government's plans to consult the general public on acceptable future uses for RPAS. (Paragraph 236)

32.  We are convinced by the evidence we have received that the workload of regulators at EU and at Member State level, be they for aviation safety or public order, will increase in the near future, as the use of RPAS grows. We urge that regulators be sufficiently resourced to deal with this. (Paragraph 243)

33.  Due to the increasing scope for RPAS-related offences and the limited resources of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, we support greater police involvement in enforcing existing laws with regard to the misuse of RPAS. We welcome plans to produce guidance for police officers on how to apply RPAS safety legislation in the UK. We encourage other Member States to consider a similar approach. (Paragraph 244)

34.  We have already recommended the creation of an online database through which commercial RPAS pilots can provide details of their flights to inform other airspace users. We heard compelling arguments as to why the leisure use of RPAS presents risks to the general public and other airspace users. Therefore, in the long term, we foresee the need for a system which can track and trace all RPAS, especially those flying below 500ft, irrespective of whether they are flown by commercial or leisure pilots. This will be essential not only to manage the increased traffic in the sky, but also to enforce existing and future laws governing RPAS use. (Paragraph 248)

35.  The civilian use of RPAS has the potential to bring aviation into all industries. It is important that rules developed by the Commission and Member States enable growth in the industry and development of technology for the future. (Paragraph 251)

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