The Commercial UAV Expo Europe is taking place this week in Amsterdam. In addition to being an important market for the commercial drone industry, Europe is at the center of drone regulations. European regulators have made significant progress in creating a framework that will apply across member states, and are at the cutting edge of urban drone regulations. In a presentation today, Lorenzo Murzilli, a Manager at the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) talked about drone regulations in Europe and the future of unmanned traffic management (UTM.)
Murzilli has worked on the Joint Authorization for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS), a multi-national organization of 90 people split into working sub-groups. The purpose of JARUS is “to recommend a single set of technical, safety and operational requirements for the certification and safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into airspace and at aerodromes,” says the organization. Currently, they envision a framework of three regulatory categories based upon risk and flight factors: an open category, specific category, and a certified category, each with increasing regulation.
Regulators across the globe agree that a robust UTM framework is a critical piece of any regulatory system for commercial drones. When Murzilli was asked during a panel discussion on UTM trends in Europe if he could share how the costs of UTM services might be calculated, his answer was interesting – and revealing of how the topic is viewed in regulatory circles:
“How would anyone make money when there is no current scale? These use-based services will make money, but the scale needs to come first. We are currently in pilot mode and will be ready when the scale comes.”
In Murzilli’s view, scale is not just a question of greater adoption, but one of greater fleet size.
He continued: “If each flight requires 3 people to fly is will not work economically – it is too expensive. But if we have one operator controlling 100 flights, than that will work.”
Murzilli sees the future of air traffic looking very different than it does today. At a major Swiss airport, the traffic at a recent point in time showed 158 total flights, 129 of which were manned and 29 of which were drones. Over time, suggests Murzilli, that ratio of manned to unmanned flights will flip. “Governments need to be ready for it,” says Murzilli.