EASA UAS Rules
Slow Regulation Resulted in Wise Proposals
Regulatory rapidity is almost an oxymoron. Almost always a rush to a decision shortchanges the gestation period in which the stakeholders and regulators can develop better ideas. Especially in a sphere in which the technology development is escalating, delay may allow the solution to overtake the problem.
About three years ago American drone manufacturers, users and associations were free in their criticism about the FAA’s lethargy in promulgating the UAS regulations. Among several arguments, they asserted that the delay in issuing the rules for these innovative vehicles would harm US industry which was in competition with other countries in introducing new aviation and operational uses for drones.
The FAA issued Part 107 on June 21, 2015. In its haste to promulgate the rules, a provision to require registration was not included and at the direction of Secretary Foxx, an interim final rule was issued on December 15, 2015.
Thanks to Mr. Taylor, the US Court of Appeals for DC Circuit found the registration edict to have violated §336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
Somehow the European UAS industry has survived for EASA on May 5, 2017 issued its proposal to regulate the operation of small drones in Europe.
The Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) was developed with the support of a large group of experts: representatives of the EASA Member States, the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry, UAS operators, aviation representatives and aero modelling associations. The final Opinion, which EASA will submit to the European Commission at the end of 2017, will take into account the feedback received to this NPA proposal. That means, according to Violeta Bulc, the European Union (EU) commissioner for transport, “We need the EU to be in the driving seat and have a safe drone services market up and running by 2019.”
Based on the assertions of the American pundits, that means the European UAS industry must be doomed.
However, the EASA gestation period resulted in some wise proposals, such as:
- The pilots’ qualifications.
- Design requirements for small drones will be implemented by using the legislation relative to making products available on the market, the well-known CE (“Conformité européenne”) marking. The standard CE marking will be accompanied by the identification of the class of the drone (from C0 to C4) and by a do’s and don’ts leaflet that will be found in all drone boxes.
- Based on the drone class, an operator will know in which area he can operate and what competence is required (seeFlying a Drone – do’s and don’ts).
- SMS risk assessments will be applied to UAS use in more challenging operations.
- A “U-Space” as defined by EASA and the Single European Sky Air traffic management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR-JU)—a UAS zone from the surface to 150 m (492 ft) for the operation of drones.
- Geofencing, that ensures drones do not enter a prohibited zone.
- The system will provide information for highly automated — or autonomous — drones to operate safely and avoid collisions.
- Registration, except when the drones are lighter than 250g.
The last four items are the product of delay. The technologies to define the airspace, to geofence, to permit autonomous operations and RFID identification of drones have attained adequate reliability to be incorporated in the EASA NPA.
Ironically, in light of Taylor v. Huerta and in the absence of further legislation, e-identification may not be an option for the FAA. Haste2 in issuing Part 107 and then Part 38 plus the caustic opinion by the USCA DC may make it difficult for the FAA to require that recreational drone must carry and e-identification.
EASA should be commended for its well-considered set of UAS rules. It will be interesting to see how/if the FAA matches some of these better ideas!!!