Wednesday, 12 August 2015

EASA launches public consultation on new drone rules in Europe… and pilots call for more stringent measures

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has launched a public consultation on the Advance Notice of Proposed Amendment (ANPA) that regards new European rules for operations of all categories of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), widely known as “drones”. Meanwhile, associations of European pilots ask for prompt and strict regulations, to ensure aviation safety. 

As noted at the EASA website, the ANPA introduces three categories of operations as already proposed in the published EASA Concept of Operations for Drones:
  • ‘Open’ category (low risk): safety is ensured through operational limitations, compliance with industry standards, requirements on certain functionalities, and a minimum set of operational rules. Enforcement shall be ensured by the police.
  • ‘Specific operation’ category (medium risk): authorisation by National Aviation Authorities (NAAs), possibly assisted by a Qualified Entity (QE) following a risk assessment performed by the operator. A manual of operations shall list the risk mitigation measures.
  • ‘Certified’ category (higher risk): requirements comparable to manned aviation requirements. Oversight by NAAs (issue of licences and approval of maintenance, operations, training, Air Traffic Management (ATM)/Air Navigation Services (ANS) and aerodrome organisations) and by EASA (design and approval of foreign organisations).
The European Cockpit Association, which represents over 38.000 European pilots, is skeptical about the “low risk” Open Category, underlines the need for more research on the effects of collisions between unmanned and manned aircraft and proposes more stringent regulatory measures concerning both design and operational requirements for RPAS.

At the same time, the European Regions Airlines Association (ERA) in a recent press release highlighted the risks of drones for aviation safety, especially after the near-miss at Heathrow and most recently in Warsaw, and called for prompt establishment of regulatory measures that will enable the safe integration of RPAS into civilian airspace.
Similar statements have been issued by the British Airline Pilot Association (BALPA).

It is noteworthy that all above comments refer not only to aviation safety but also to the viability of the fledging industry, which will be seriously jeopardized in case of an accident with manned air traffic.

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