Opinion 01/2018

Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations in the ‘open’ and ‘specific’ categories

In accordance with the proposed new Basic Regulation, for which a political agreement between the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament was reached on 22 December 2017, the competence of the EU has been extended to cover the regulation of all civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), regardless of their maximum take-off masses (MTOMs). The objective of this Opinion is to create a new regulatory framework that defines measures to mitigate the risk of operations in the:

  • ‘open’ category, through a combination of limitations, operational rules, requirements for the competency of the remote pilot, as well as technical requirements for UAS, such that the UAS operator may conduct the operation without prior authorisation by the competent authority, or without submitting a declaration; and
  • ‘specific’ category, through a system that includes a risk assessment being conducted by the UAS operator before starting an operation, or an operator complying with a standard scenario, or an operator holding a certificate with privileges.

Moreover, this Opinion is intended to:

  • implement an operation-centric, proportionate, risk- and performance-based regulatory framework for all UAS operations conducted in the ‘open’ and ‘specific’ categories;
  • ensure a high and uniform level of safety for UAS operations;
  • foster the development of the UAS market; and
  • contribute to addressing citizens’ concerns regarding security, privacy, data protection, and environmental protection.

The proposed regulations will provide flexibility to Member States (MSs), mainly by allowing them to create zones within their territories where the use of UAS would be prohibited, limited or, in contrast, facilitated. Pursuant to the new Basic Regulation, market product legislation (CE marking) ensures compliance with the technical requirements for mass-produced UAS operated in the ‘open’ category. Two acts are proposed that follow different adoption procedures, as defined by the new Basic Regulation: a delegated act that defines the conditions for making UAS available on the market and the conditions for UAS operations conducted by a third-country operator, and an implementing rule that defines the conditions to operate UAS and the conditions for registration. The proposed regulatory framework is expected to increase the level of safety of UAS operations, to harmonise legislation among the EU MSs, and to create an EU market that will reduce the cost of UAS and allow cross-border operations.