UNLIKE FAA, EASA’s UAS rules balance safety and flexibility through SMS

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The FAA, after constant criticism, issued its sUAS NPRM, and the public and Congress have responded both positively and negatively. Almost a month later (did the Europeans complain?), EASA published (and the European Commission proposed) its Remotely Piloted Aircraft System “Concept of Operation” for all drones within its borders. This approach is quite different from the FAA’s proposed Part 107. The RPAS rules may create limitations based on safety risks and flexibility tailored to the specific operation. It sounds like that EASA will be applying Safety Management System principles.

The FAA’s proposal relies heavily on its historic legal distinction between commercial aviation (e.g. 14 CFR Part 121) and flights not for compensation/hire (e.g. 14 CFR Part 91). Also the regulations, within a weight limitation, do not distinguish between or among users. For example, a sUAS operating in an urban area follows the same basic structure as one flying in the fields. One response urged the FAA to issue basic, generic rules for all sUAS vehicle and use SMS to determine the specific risks posed by each commercial operator.

The EASA release and “Concept of Operation” have been well received by American and European commentators. The new regime, according to the press release, reflects significant input from the stakeholders. The essential structure is a general set of rules as to RPAS operators’ “will cover safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance and liability.”

But the EASA standards provide “a set of rules which are proportionate and risk based. In other words, safety requirements are in relation to the risk an activity poses to the operator and to third parties (e.g. general public). The greater the risk, the higher the requirements.  This is done in order to ensure there is no compromise in safety, but there is a flexible environment for this promising industry to grow.”

Sounds like some individual operators will provide Safety Risk Analysis as a predicate to flying. Such a process should provide a good balance between flexibility and safety!

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