The introduction of new standardized drone regulations across the European Union on Jan. 1 2021, is an important step forward for the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry. Laws have long varied from country to country, which has caused widespread confusion and created complex barriers to entry for operators. The new regulations will be significant in achieving harmonization between EU states and making the regulatory process easier to navigate for the modern drone/UAV operator.
What do these new rules mean in practice? The standard framework takes a risk-based approach for each drone and classifies them into three distinct categories: open, specific and certified. By ensuring all EU countries have the same – often more straightforward – regulatory approach, we anticipate exciting progress in realizing the full potential of UAVs and making advanced operations, such as beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) and operations over people (OOP), more routine. It is also likely that the rules will help streamline drone safety and airspace integration across the continent, as flights become more regulated. With more harmonized regulations, we expect companies to take further opportunities in scaling up operations by expanding into other EU countries and building out their drone fleets.
Invariably, there will be challenges – particularly in the early stages. For example, National Aviation Authorities will now be responsible for implementing training and registration processes. This step is likely to invite countless questions from drone operators looking for clarification about their operations. Rather than placing the burden on UAV pilots, manufacturers will also be accountable for ensuring drone compliance for the first time.
During the initial two-year ‘Limited Open Category’ transition period, senseFly is making sure that drone operators have all the support they need by keeping them up-to-date and informed on the latest rules and procedures. And by collaborating with authorities and standardization bodies, we can share our experiences on fixed-wing drones to guide users on how the new regulations will affect them in real-life scenarios.
Ultimately, the new EU regulations are a significant, positive step in the evolution of the commercial drone sector. While the laws will inevitably create new challenges for the industry as we take the first measured steps forward, it is understood that they are increasingly necessary to help meet changing operator requirements.
Although the rules only apply to Europe, we predict civil aviation authorities in the US, Canada and further afield will be taking a keen interest in developments over the next couple of years.
Indeed, progress continues to be made in the global regulatory field: the result of increased collaboration with forward-thinking authorities and standardization bodies as we as an industry continue to make great strides toward our collective goal. This is undoubtedly just a glimpse of the exciting things that are yet to come — watch this space!