EASA Issues First Formal Opinion on Drone Rules

By S.L. Fuller | February 23, 2018
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Photo by Greg Clarke

Europe is figuring out what to do about civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and has come one step closer. EASA has published its first formal opinion, which according to the agency is to serve as a basis for the European Commission to adopt regulatory proposals later this year.

“This regulation will enable the free circulation of drones and a level playing field within the European Union, while also respecting the privacy and security of [European Union] citizens, and allowing the drone industry to remain agile, to innovate and continue to grow,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.


EASA’s opinion carries a January date. The European Commission chaired a meeting to discuss the opinion with European Union (EU) member states Wednesday.

The latest European Commission draft regulation outlines two separate categories of drone operations: “open” and “specific."

Low-risk operations would be considered “open” and not subject to “classic aeronautical compliance procedures,” according to the draft. “Specific” operations would need to be compliant with some technical requirements.

Member states would be able to establish airspace restrictions.

Also in the draft is a recommendation that provisions specifically for hobbyists be implemented.

EASA said its opinion falls in line with an agreement endorsed by the EU, reached with the European Parliament, from Dec. 22, 2017. That agreement was on the “Basic Regulation,” which put the EU in charge of drone operations, excluding those used for state operations, like military or parapublic missions.

To form this opinion, EASA considered input from more than 3,700 comments from 215 commenters. The area the garnered the most attention from the public was the “open” category, with commenters asking for more clarification and simplification on proposed limitations. EASA’s opinion considers these comments. The same requests occurred regarding the “specific” category. EASA also considered these comments. In both cases, the opinion amended some rules from the original EU agreement, adding and subtracting items.

“The proposed regulations will provide flexibility to member states, mainly by allowing them to create zones within their territories where the use of UAS would be prohibited, limited or, in contrast, facilitated,” EASA said.

As shown in its opinion, EASA ultimately hopes 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
  • “Foster the development of the UAS market
  • “Contribute to addressing citizens’ concerns regarding security, privacy, data protection and environmental protection”

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