In the European Drone Strategy 2.0 published at the end of November 2022, the European Commission describes its vision for the future of the European drone market. The unmanned aerial vehicles are intended, for example, to relieve the existing transport infrastructure and quickly bring medicines to patients in emergencies. They will also be used to deliver goods and transport people. Timo Stellpflug, Partner and Head of the Aerospace & Defence practice area at Taylor Wessing Germany, summarises the key aspects of the Commission’s proposal.
Commercial drone operations are set to take on elementary tasks in urban and rural regions in the future. Whether for surveying, deliveries, monitoring the environment and ecosystems or as air taxis, these and many other drone services may soon be part of everyday life in Europe thanks to sophisticated drones. The European Commission predicts that the drone market in the European Union could reach a volume of EUR 14.5 billion by 2030 and create 145,000 jobs.
The Drone Strategy 2.0 (full title: Drone Strategy 2.0 for a Smart and Sustainable Unmanned Aircraft Eco-system in Europe) contains a list of 19 operational, technical and financial flagship actions. The aim is to create an appropriate legal and commercial environment for the airspace and market for drones and their development. In particular, the strategy envisages that the following services will be deployed as standard in Europe by 2030:
- Emergency services, mapping, imaging, inspection and surveillance by civilian drones, as well as urgent deliveries of small consignments such as biological samples or medicines.
- Innovative air mobility services, such as air taxis providing regular passenger transport, initially still using aircraft that have pilots on board. Ultimately, however, the aim is to fully automate air operations.
The flagship actions include new requirements for drone pilots, support programmes for research, cyber security and logistical requirements such as charging stations and airports. The creation of a certification system (European Trusted Drone Label) aims to ensure the safety and airworthiness of drones:
Overview of intended flagship actions and measures of the EU Commission
Flagship actions to further develop the European market for drone services
- Adopt amendments concerning the Standardised European Rules of the Air and the Air Traffic Management/Air Navigation Services Regulation to safely integrate drone operations and manned eVTOL operations,
- Promote coordinated research on integrated communication, navigation and surveillance technologies,
- Adopt new European standard scenarios for low to medium risk airborne operations,
- Issuing regulations for the drone operating category “subject to certification” for the initial issuance and renewal of certificates of airworthiness for drones subject to certification as well as for the operational requirements applicable to manned VTOL-capable aircraft,
- Adopt regulations for the construction and operation of vertiports within the scope of the EASA Basic Regulation,
- Develop balanced economic and financial requirements for the licensing of drone operators,
- Support the financing of the establishment of an online platform for the sustainable implementation of the IAM by authorities, cities, industry and stakeholders,
- Adopt training and competency requirements for remote pilots and pilots of VTOL aircraft.
Measures to strengthen the capabilities and synergies of the European civil, security and defence industry
- Provide funding for research and innovation in drones and their integration into airspace,
- Calls for proposals under existing EU instruments and EIB loans to support a new flagship project on “drone technologies”,
- Examine possible changes to the existing funding/funding framework to ensure a coherent approach to supporting dual-use research and innovation to strengthen synergies between civil and defence instruments,
- Develop a strategic drone technology roadmap to identify priority areas for research and innovation, reduce existing strategic dependencies and prevent the emergence of new ones,
- Coordinate a joint approach with other relevant EU players to ensure sufficient radio frequency is available for drone operations,
- Establish an EU-wide network of civil-military drone test centres to facilitate exchanges between the civil and defence sectors,
- Motivation of all relevant stakeholders to further align certification requirements for civil and military applications with those set by EASA, taking into account military features and existing military certification standards,
- Adopt new standard scenarios for civil operations that could facilitate corresponding military use cases,
- Adopt a drone defence package,
- Adopt an amendment to aviation security regulations to ensure that aviation authorities and airports increase their resilience to the risks posed by drones,
- Establish criteria for a voluntary “European Trusted Drone” label.
An EU legal framework for the use of drones has existed since 2018. In addition, the European Commission’s U-Space Package came into force in mid-January 2023. With the Drone Strategy 2.0, the Commission wants to further supplement and in part simplify the existing rules.