EU standards to regulate civil drones

At April 8, 2014 the European Commission has proposed to set tough new standards to regulate the operations of civil drones. The new standards will cover safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance and liability. The aim is to allow European industry to become a global leader in the market for this emerging technology, while at the same time ensuring that all the necessary safeguards are in place.

Civil drones are increasingly being used in Europe but under a fragmented regulatory framework. Basic national safety rules apply, but the rules differ across the EU and a number of key safeguards are not addressed in a coherent way.

The new standards will cover the following areas

  • Strict EU wide rules on safety authorisations. Safety is the first priority for EU aviation policy. EU standards will be based on the principle that civil drones (remotely piloted aircraft) must provide an equivalent level of safety to ‘manned’ aviation operations. EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, will start developing specific EU-wide standards for remotely piloted aircraft.
  • Tough controls on privacy and data protection. Data collected by remotely piloted aircraft, must comply with the applicable data protection rules and data protection authorities must monitor the subsequent collection and processing of personal data. The Commission will assess how to ensure data protection rules apply fully to remotely piloted aircraft and propose changes or specific guidance where it is needed.
  • Controls to ensure security. Civil drones can be subject to potential unlawful actions and security threats, like other aircraft. EASA will start work to develop the necessary security requirements, particularly to protect information streams, and then propose specific legal obligations for all players concerned (e.g. air traffic management, the operator, the telecom service providers), to be enforced by national authorities.
  • A clear framework for liability and insurance. The current third-party insurance regime has been established mostly in terms of manned aircraft, where mass (starting from 500kg) determines the minimum amount of insurance. The Commission will assess the need to amend the current rules to take into account the specificities of remotely piloted aircraft.

It will take considerable time, but eventually the new standards will come into force throughout the EU.

If you have any questions on the legal technicalities of the use of drones, please feel free to contact our contact person.

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