As commercial services using drones take off and their recreational use becomes ever more popular, it must be ensured that they pose no threat to public safety or personal privacy, said MEPs in a resolution passed on Thursday at the initiative of theTransport Committee.
The drone’s great potential for economic growth
“The key here is in the title – to ensure the safe use of drones. We do not want to tie the hands of regulators and be too prescriptive, but to provide a framework for how the Commission, EU countries and other stakeholders can proceed”, said rapporteur Jacqueline Foster (ECR, UK).
Jacqueline Foster, rapporteur . – Madam President, small radio-controlled model aircraft have been flown by enthusiasts for many decades. The first recorded use of them in the UK was in 1935 when the British Royal Navy used the DH82 Queen Bee for target practice. During the past 15 years we have seen rapid growth in the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), more commonly known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Technology developed primarily for military purposes is now being applied for commercial use, pushing technological and legislative boundaries.
In recognition of the rapid development of this market, RPAS are rightly being incorporated into existing aviation programmes such as Sesar and Horizon 2020. In addition, the potential for growth in this industry, from the manufacturer to the end user, is immense for large and small businesses alike. Therefore, it is imperative that we maintain world-class standards for manufacturing. Europe leads the world in drone development, with two and a half thousand drone operators. In the UK alone we have more than 600 RPAS operations providing services from photography to land surveillance.
RPASs have become an increasingly popular alternative to manned aircraft for aerial surveillance activities, among other things. They are used to monitor railway lines, power plants and farmers’ crops, as well as at rock concerts and in football stadiums. They are being used increasingly in humanitarian circumstances, in dealing with forest fires and earthquakes, for example, and in search and rescue operations. At the same time, ‘baby drones’ designed for leisure and hobby use have become increasingly popular.
All the stakeholders have recognised the potential of this market and we are all keen to stress that any policy framework must enable growth in it in order to compete globally. My role as rapporteur has been to find the right direction and framework to take this industry to the next stage, and I believe that this report, as it now stands, has answered the key questions.
Earlier this year I brought together representatives from industry, Member States, civil aviation authorities, air traffic services, the European Safety Agency and the Commission. It was widely recognised by participants that any framework must be proportionate and risk-based to enable the sector to grow while, at the same time, avoiding any unnecessary burdens. In addition, any legislation must reflect global cooperation in order to stimulate R&D.
I also had constructive meetings in Washington in March with representatives from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the US Transport Department. This all culminated in a high-level meeting under the Latvian Presidency in Riga, which produced the Riga Declaration.
That key message stated that the European aviation community would commit itself to allowing businesses to provide RPAS services everywhere in Europe from 2016. To do this, I believe that we need to establish European and global rules which will address the following areas: air worthiness, certification, commercial and recreational use, drone identity, appropriate pilot training, liability and insurance, operations, protection and privacy, geo-fencing and no-fly zones.
The Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) is a committee comprising non-EU and EU Member States and national aviation authorities. It sits under the umbrella of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Its purpose is to develop technical safety and operational requirements for the certification and safe integration of large and small RPAS into airspace and at aerodromes. The Chair of JARUS is a representative from European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). In my view, JARUS is ideally placed to draft global safety regulations for the use of these systems quickly and effectively.
We need to ensure that any future EU rules will be compatible with international arrangements through a process of mutual recognition.
To conclude, I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs on the Committee on Transport and Tourism for their very constructive input and cooperation, as well as our colleagues on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and in particular Patrick Cassidy from the ECR Group, who has been an invaluable help to me. I believe that we have acknowledged the opportunities that this nascent market can create for both investment and job creation, whilst at the same time safeguarding public interest. I would therefore ask Parliament for its support in order to send a strong political message that we are ready for this new exciting step forward for the aviation sector.
Drones, which could be used to provide various services, such as inspecting rail tracks, dams, and power plants, assessing natural disasters, crop spraying, film production and parcel delivery have great potential for stimulating economic growth and job creation, MEPs say in the resolution, which was passed by 581 votes to 31, with 21 abstentions.
But safety, privacy, data protection and liability issues must be addressed, they add.
Develop technology to ensure safety and privacy, tackle illegal use
Policies should include privacy and data protection safeguards, and drones should be equipped with ID chips and registered to make it easier to catch criminals who use them to breach privacy and data protection rules or commit other crimes. Drone ID chips would also facilitate accident investigations and help solve liability issues, say MEPs.
MEPs ask the EU Commission to support research into ‘detect and avoid’ technologies to enable drones to avoid collisions with other airspace users or objects on the ground. Drones that can fly beyond visual line of sight must be equipped with this technology, they say.
Furthermore, ‘geo-fencing’ technology should be developed and used to prevent drones from entering no-fly zones such as airports and power plants, MEPs add.
Easing cross-border drone sales and services
Current national authorisations for drones and their operators are not generally mutually recognised by EU member states, which hampers the development of an EU-wide market for drones and drone services as well as their competitiveness globally, MEPs note.
They therefore support Commission plans to propose EU-wide rules which would allow national authorities and other qualified bodies to handle validation and oversight activities.
Safety rules should match risk levels
As drone risks differ, depending, for example, on the size of the drone or whether areas overflown are populated,, rules should be tailored to differing levels of risk and should distinguish between ‘professional’ and ‘recreational’ use, says the text.
Download press release in PDF format: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/pdfs/news/expert/infopress/20151022IPR98819/20151022IPR98819_en.pdf
- Adopted text will be available here (click on 29.10.2015): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/texts-adopted.html
- Video recording of debate (click on 29.10.2015): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getVod.do?mode=chapter&language=EN&vodDateId=20151029-09:04:51-278
- Audiovisual material for professionals: http://audiovisual.europarl.europa.eu/default.aspx
- Profile of rapporteur Jacqueline Foster (ECR, UK): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/4553/JACQUELINE_FOSTER_home.html
- Press release by the EPP group: http://www.eppgroup.eu/press-release/European-drone-must-conquer-the-world
- News pages of the S&D group: http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom
- Press release by the ECR group: http://ecrgroup.eu/news/ecr-meps-secure-overwhelming-support-for-groundbreaking-report-on-non-military-drones/
- Press release of the ALDE group: http://www.alde.eu/nc/press/press-and-release-news/press-release/article/drones-eu-parliamentarians-push-for-europe-wide-regulation-46222/
- News pages of the GUE/NGL group: http://www.guengl.eu/news/archives/category/gue-ngl-news
- News pages of the Greens/EFA group: http://www.greens-efa.eu/press/70-press-releases.html
- News pages of the EFDD group: http://www.efdgroup.eu/newsroom/press-releases