New norms to regulate drones to guarantee safety and privacy in the European Union

Drones, small remote-controlled aircraft, can be used to take photographs from the air, film a football match from the air, spread herbicides and pesticides over crops and monitor forest fires. Despite their usefulness, they are also a risk to air safety and privacy.

The Transport Commission of the European Union gave its support to these new norms put forward by the European Commission to guarantee safety and privacy in the EU.

drone-407393_1920At present, drones weighing less than 150 kilos are regulated nationally. In the EU, the regulating framework is fragmented: different certificates and technical and safety standards, which cause a real headache for operators and transnational manufacturers. Members of the European Parliament want basic prerequisites which drones weighing less than 150 kilos have to comply with to be included in EU legislation to ensure coherence and clarity. Furthermore, they ask for an obligatory record of drones weighing more than 250 grams and demand that operators have the necessary skills to pilot a crewless plane in a public domain.

This way, most toy drones, which are currently the most commonplace, will not be affected by this prerequisite.

The present characteristics of the various national regulations concerning drones are the following:

  • Civil drones: different countries, different regulations. A drone is a crewless aircraft which is permitted as long as it is remote controlled, but it is still not authorised to operate if it is completely automated.
  • In most countries, crewless planes weighing over 20-25 kilos need special authorisation (record, flight permit, pilot’s licence and technical assessment).
  • Drones are regulated nationally if they weigh from 0 to 150 kilos, whereas if they are more than 150 kilos they are regulated by the European Union.
  • Small civil drones weighing less than 25 kilos are the most popular. In the European Union, during 2015 1.7 million were sold, 98% of which weighed less than 2 kilos.
  • At present there are over 3 millions drones in use -according to estimations made in several EU countries-, excluding “toys” and model aircraft.
  • The maximum flying capacity also differs depending on the country. The most restrictive is Belgium, with 90 metres. Spain is mid-table with a permitted height of 125 metres, and other countries like France and Italy permit a maximum of 150 metres.
  • Concerning the distance deemed to be safe as far as buildings, persons or vehicles is concerned,this is at least 50 metres.

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