The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is planning to introduce Europe wide framework for the operation of drones. The document is currently subject to a consultation period which ends on 25 September 2015. The document, referred to as EASA A-NPA 2015-10 Drones, extends to 41 pages. Some significant and interesting points from this document are discussed below…
Figure 1: A drone in close proximity to a cow
Currently EASA is responsible for rules relating to drones weighing more than 150kg and national aviation authorities (the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK) have responsibility for drones weighing less than 150kg. Under the proposal EASA would be responsible for rules relating to all drones.
Currently (in the UK) there are stringent rules for commercial operators of small /drones but less stringent rules for non-commercial rules. EASA rules for both commercial and non-commercial operators would be the same on the basis that the risk they both present would be the same. This is likely to reduce the barriers to market entry for commercial operators whilst tightening up the rules for recreational operators.
The document refers to drones rather than Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or any other term giving the following definition: ‘Drone shall mean an aircraft without a human pilot on board, whose flight is controlled either autonomously or under the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.’
Figure 2: A popular drone model hovering above grass
Three risks are identified:
- Mid-air collision with manned aircraft
- Harm to people
- Damage to property, in particular to critical and sensitive infrastructure
Risk Operational Categories
Three risk categories are defined for drones:
|Category Name||Risk||Method of Safety Assurance||Enforcement||Examples|
|Open||Low||Compliance with industry standards and Operational limitations||Police||A toy or Aerial photography in a rural environment.|
|Specific Operation||Medium||Risk Assessment and Manual of Operations||Aviation Authority or Qualified Entity||Aerial photography in a densely populated area. Power line inspection.|
|Certified||High||Management and licensing similar to manned aviation||Aviation Authority||International cargo transport. Transport of people.|
Three weight subcategories are defined for drones in the Open category. These are:
|CAT A0||Toys and mini drones||< 1|
|CAT A1||Very small drones||< 4|
|CAT A2||Small drones||< 25|
Open Category Operations
The following limitations apply:
- Flights must be in direct visual line of sight
- Mass less than 25kg
- No operation in No Drone Zones
- Limitations apply in Limited Drone Zones
- Drone must give way to other aircraft
- Maximum operating height of 150 metres
- Drone operator responsible for safety
- No overflight of groups of more than 12 people
Geo-fencing means automatic limitation of the airspace a drone can enter. This is already implemented in some models. The term No-Fly Zone is also used.
Mandatory Geo-fencing is proposed, for some operations, to prevent unintended flights outside safe areas.
Figure 3: Geo-fence flight restriction message, applied due to proximity to an airport
Authorities will be able to define No-Drone Zones and Limited Drone Zones to either prevent operations or define minimum safety arrangements for drones.
This is a capability to reply to an electronic interrogation with identification information. This will also be mandatory for some operations.
This could be implemented using mobile phone SIM technology, radar transponder technology (SSR), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or some other means.
Drones that are CE marked will have met the required minimum standards to operate safely within the EU.
Advance Notice of Proposed Amendment 2015-10, European Safety Agency (EASA), 2015