From the Floor at INTERGEO: The New EU Drone Rules

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We’re on the show floor at INTERGEO in Stuttgart, Germany this week – and bringing you news on some of the new technologies, trends and expertise on offer.

In a short and to-the-point session this morning, Jan Helge May, L.L.M., attorney at law and partner in BHO Legal, told industry stakeholders what has changed – and what’s still in development – in Europe-level drone regulations.

(This article is not intended as legal advice.  Please review the regulations for your own specific requirements.)

Regulating at the European Level

Drone regulations are shifting away from individual member state regulations.  “Prior to 9/18, we had a piecemeal approach,” said May.  “Now, practically all civil aircraft will be regulated at European level: with an opt-in for military, customs, police, SAR, firefighting, coastguard and others.”

Since the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced the publication of the common European rules in June, drone operators have been in the process of ensuring that they are in compliance: EASA granted stakeholders a year to comply with the new regulations.

 

The Operation-Centric and Risk-Based Approach

These regulations are risk-based, and oriented around categories of operation: Open, Specific, and Certified.  They include meeting technical requirements for drones in EU market to be used in open category: those technical requirements cover the design, manufacture, and features like remote ID.  There are very distinct features for each of the categories of operations, says May.

The Open category, for example, requires no prior authorization: operators will have to ensure that their intended operations are in compliance with the definition of the open category but then are free to fly.

The Specific category will require an individual risk assessment and prior authorization.  However, May explains, provisions are being put into place to streamline that process.  Descriptions of “Standard Scenarios” in the Specific category are under development: operations which follow the guidelines of a standard scenario will find it easier to get authorization.  While those scenarios are in development at the European level, “national standards from member states may fill the gap in the meantime,” says May.  As an alternative, operators may apply for a Light UAS Operator Certificate – which grants them the privilege to authorize their own operations.

The Certified category covers operations of higher risk, such as the transport of people or dangerous goods: for those operations,  regulations “similar to manned aviation” will be enforced, says May.

Registration is another key component of the new regulations, and May emphasizes that it is the operator who must register: then displaying that registration number on the drone fleet.  It is only in the Certified category that the drone itself will need to be registered – but May points out that individual aircraft serial numbers still provide a means of linking individual aircraft to operators.

Getting Ready for 2020

While the conceptual framework is in place,  not all of the pieces of the system are in operation.  For example, registration systems must be brought up and running by member states: those systems will have to be scalable and interoperable.

To ensure that drone operators and service providers are in compliance with new regulations, May provided this advice:

  • Analyze the category of your intended operations;
  • Classify your “old” (placed on the market prior to July 2022) and ensure compliance with technical requirements: contact the manufacturer, importer or seller;
  • Register as a drone operator, and if applicable, register your drone in the “Certified” category;
  • Convert “old” authorizations and remote pilot certificates into “new” ones (until July 2021);
  • Follow the development of EASA regulations: the descriptions of standard scenarios, and unmanned traffic management (UTM);
  • Keep an eye on upcoming amendments of national drone rules in EU member states: the definition of UAS geographical areas, which will be in common digital format as of July 2021; the setup of registries; and rules on privacy, data protection, liability, insurance, and more.

 



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