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Review of the European regulatory framework on UAS

INTRODUCTION TO THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

In the scope of application of the European Union (EU), UAS operations are included within a regulatory framework focused on risk according to the type of operation. This new approach was proposed by EASA in December 2015 [1] [2] at the request of the European Commission (EC), Member States and other stakeholders, in order to create a regulatory framework focused on operations, proportionate and risk-based for all unmanned aircraft (UA). A general concept was proposed establishing three categories of UAS operations: "Open", "Specific" and "Certified", each with different security requirements proportional to the risk:

  • The "Open" category does not require an authorization from the competent authority or a declaration from the UAS operator prior to the operation.
  • The "Specific" category requires authorization from the competent authority prior to the operation, taking into account mitigation measures identified through an operational risk assessment, except for certain standard scenarios where an operator declaration suffices or when the operator holds a Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC).
  • The "Certified" category requires certification of the UAS, a licensed remote pilot, and an operator approved by the competent authority, in order to ensure an adequate level of safety.

 

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Under this approach, the following main regulations that establish the UAS regulatory framework are identified:

  • Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council [3].
  • Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 [4].
  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 [5].

 

U-Space related regulations:

  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/664 [6].
  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/665 [7].
  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/666 [8].

 

REGULATION (EU) 2018/1139

Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of July 4, 2018, on "common rules in the field of civil aviation and creating a European Union Aviation Safety Agency" [3], contains the regulatory framework high level for UAS operations and design. This regulation has extended EASA's scope of competence to civil drones of any mass and has established a solid legal basis for a common regulatory framework in Europe for the use of such drones. In addition, Annex IX defines the essential requirements for the design, production, maintenance and operation of unmanned aircraft.

This regulation also defines the term "unmanned aircraft" as that aircraft that operates or is designed to operate autonomously or to be piloted remotely without a pilot on board. This regulation includes four articles (55-58), which served as the basis for the development of two EU regulations on UAS: [4] and [5].

 

REGULATION (EU) 2019/945

The regulation (EU) of March 12, 2019 on "unmanned aircraft systems and third-country operators of unmanned aircraft systems" [4], defines the design and manufacture requirements of UAS in relation to the conditions and rules established in the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 [5] when operating a UAS. It also defines the type of aircraft whose design, production and maintenance will be subject to certification.

Likewise, it establishes norms related to the commercialization of aircraft destined to be used in the Open category and remote identification accessories. Finally, it states the norms that third-country operators must comply with to carry out operations with UAS in accordance with [5] and UAS manufacturing standards for use in the Open category.

 

REGULATION (EU) 2019/947

Regulation (EU) 2019/947 of May 24, 2019 on "the rules and procedures applicable to the unmanned aircraft use" [5], aims to increase the level of UAS operations related security throughout the Europe allowing a better harmonization among the European market. This regulation covers many aspects, such as: UAS operations, operator requirements or remote crew competencies. This regulation has been modified by:

  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/746 deferring the dates of application of certain measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic [9];
  • Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/639 on Standard Scenarios (STS) for operations executed at or beyond Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) [10].

 

This regulation defines UAS operations as “Open”, “Specific” or “Certified” based on a principle of proportionality: each category is associated with a certain level of risk and is regulated by a different set of limitations/requirements. The risk related to each category takes into account the technical characteristics of the UAS (for example, the maximum take-off mass), the operational aspects (for example, the maximum operating altitude) and the competencies of the remote crew. Below are some of the main characteristics of each of the categories mentioned:

OPEN:

  • MTOM (Maximum Take-Off Mass) <25 kg
  • VLOS type
  • Maximum operating height: 120 m from the closest point of the earth's surface.
  • The open category does not allow the transport of people or the overflight of people agglomerates. In addition, it does not allow the transport of dangerous goods or drop of any material.

 

SPECIFIC:

  • Operations that exceed the limitations established in the Open category.
  • VLOS / BVLOS type (Beyond Visual Line of Sight)
  • Maximum characteristic dimension: without restrictions except for flying over people agglomerates, in which case it is 3 m.
  • The specific category does not allow the transport of people or the transport of dangerous goods that may entail a high risk for third parties in the event of an accident.

 

CERTIFIED

  • Operations that exceed the limitations established in the Specific category.
  • VLOS / BVLOS type
  • The certified category allows the transport of people or the overflight of people agglomerates. In addition, it allows the transport of dangerous goods that may entail a high risk for third parties in the event of an accident.

 

 

U-SPACE RELATED REGULATIONS

The U-Space system is defined as a set of services and procedures, based on a high level of automation and digitalization of data, designed to guarantee access to airspace for a large number of UAS safely and efficiently. These services are designed to work in all types of environments and support various operations involving both manned and unmanned aircraft [11].

The EU regulations in which the application of the U-Space falls are listed below:

Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/664 of the Commission of April 22, 2021 on "a regulatory framework for U-Space" [6]

It establishes the rules and procedures for the safe operations of UAS in U-Space airspace, for the safe integration of UAS into the aviation system and for the provision of U-Space services.

It identifies four mandatory U-Space services: Network Identification Service, Geo-Awareness Service, UAS Flight Authorization Service, and Traffic Information Service (referred to in Articles 8, 9, 10, and 11, respectively). In addition, two more services are identified that may be required by the Member States: the meteorological information service and the compliance control service, referred to in articles 12 and 13.

Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/665 of the Commission of April 22, 2021

by which the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373 is modified with regard to the requirements for service providers of management of the air traffic/air navigation and other air traffic management network functions in designated U-Space airspace in controlled airspace” [7].

Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/666 of the Commission of April 22, 2021

"by which Regulation (EU) 923/2012 is modified with regard to the requirements for manned aviation operating in space U-Space aircraft” [8].

The previous Regulations came into force on January 26, 2023. Section 7 provides a more detailed analysis of these regulations, as well as their UAS operations implications.

Report extracted from documentation related to the U-SCUAR project. This project has been financed by the CDTI, co-financed with European funds from the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism and supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

 

REFERENCES

[1] EASA. 2015. A proposal to create common rules for operating drones in Europe.

[2] EASA. 2015. Introduction of a regulatory framework for the operation of unmanned aircraft.

[3] Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2018 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and amending Regulations (EC) No 2111/2005, (EC) No 1008/2008, (EU) No 996/2010, (EU) No 376/2014 and Directives 2014/30/EU and 2014/53/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 552/2004 and (EC) No 216/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (EEC) No 3922/91 (Text with EEA relevance.)

[4] Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 of 12 March 2019 on unmanned aircraft systems and on third-country operators of unmanned aircraft systems.

[5] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 of 24 May 2019 on the rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft.

[6] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/664 of 22 April 2021 on a regulatory framework for the U-space.

[7] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/665 of 22 April 2021 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373 as regards requirements for providers of air traffic management/air navigation services and other air traffic management network functions in the U-space.

[8] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/666 of 22 April 2021 amending Regulation (EU) No 923/2012 as regards requirements for manned aviation operating in U-space airspace.

[9] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/746 of 4 June 2020 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as regards postponing dates of application of certain measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[10] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/639 of 12 May 2020 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as regards standard scenarios for operations executed in or beyond the visual line of sight.

[11] SESAR Joint Undertaking. 2017. U-space Blueprint.

 

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