As global air traffic is expected to double over the next 20 years, flight safety must be safeguarded. New technologies, such as drones, are increasing in European skies, which require amendments to the current regulatory framework. In December 2015, the European Commission proposed to update aviation safety rules, and now the European Parliament and the Council agreed on the new rules.
The reform includes the first-ever EU rules regarding civil drones, extends the European Aviation Safety Agency mandate and provides guidance for using existing resources more efficiently.
With the new rules, drones will have to be designed so that they can be operated without putting people at risk. Drones will now need additional features, such as automated landing in case the operator loses contact with the drone or collision avoidance systems.
Drone operators need to know all the rules that apply to them and must operate a drone safely. This means that some drone operators would be required to go through training before they can operate a drone.
To help identify the drone operators if there is an incident, they will need to be on national registers and their drones marked for identification. This would not apply to operators of the smallest drones.
EU Commission will now develop more detailed EU-wide rules, such as maximum altitude and distance limits for drone flight, and which drone operations and drones would need to be certified based on the risk they pose. The rules would also determine which operators need additional training and to be registered and which drones would need to have additional safety features.
The agreement was approved with 558 votes in favour, 71 against and 48 abstentions. The rules are subject to EU ministers approval. The "Basic Regulation" has general application under EU rules, and will be binding and directly applicable in all Member States, the European Aviation Safety Agency explained.
These new rules for drones are especially important for Europe. Namely, the European Commission expects that the production of drones will account for about 150,000 jobs globally by 2050.