The European Commission is pushing to speed up the implementation of EU-wide rules for the use of drones in the European Union. More than 1,200 safety occurrences - including near-misses between drones and aircraft - were reported in Europe in 2016, which underlines the pressing need for a modern and flexible EU regulatory framework.
The European Commission is calling on the European Parliament and the Council to agree on its proposal from December 2015 establishing an EU-wide framework for drones.
In December 2015, the Commission proposed to create an EU-wide framework for drones as part of its Aviation Strategy. It tabled a legislative proposal establishing standards for drones and drone operations, which is still being examined by the European Parliament and the EU Member States.
Pending this adoption, the Commission's Single European Sky Air traffic management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR) - whose role is to develop the next generation of European Air Traffic Management - is currently making half a million euro available to support the demonstration of "geo-fencing" services, which can automatically prevent drones from flying into restricted zones.
"Drones offer tremendous opportunities for new services and businesses. That is why we want Europe to be a global leader," said Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc.
"I am confident our modern and flexible regulatory framework will give rise to new European champions in this sector. But safety always comes first. If we don't have enough, the near misses between drones and airplanes could one day have disastrous consequences. I am therefore calling on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly agree on our proposal from December 2015."
Ensuring that drones can safely integrate the airspace alongside other users (such as aircraft) is fundamental. This is why the Commission proposed in November 2016 to create an automated traffic management system for drones operating at low-level, referred to as the "U-space". Geo-fencing is a key component of the U-space.
The call for proposals announced by SESAR aims to select one project demonstrating the active geo-fencing of drones flying below 500 feet (around 152 meters). It requires that drones users are provided with up-to-date information on no-fly zone as well as real-time alerts if they enter one. The project will build on the geolocation capabilities which are built-in in many drones today.
Today's funding comes on top of an envelope of 9 million euros that has already been earmarked for exploratory projects to speed up the development of the U-space, such as the automatic identification of drones or drone-to-drone communication.