By 2050, various different aircraft categories are expected to be operating in European civil aviation, diverse in size, performance and type, with some still having a pilot on board, but many remotely piloted or fully automated. The European Commission has adopted this Communication in order to provide guidelines for opening the European market for remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) – in other words the civilian use of drones.
The Communication has the primary objective of establishing a single RPAS market able to reap the societal benefits of this innovative technology, and to dealing appropriately with citizens' related concerns. Six actions points are listed:
- examine the regulatory preconditions to integrate RPAS into the European airspace from 2016 onwards;
- ensure sufficient R&D funding for the integration of RPAS in the SESAR2020 Programme;
- cover security aspects in RPAS operations to avoid unlawful interference;
- assess how to make RPAS applications compliant with data protection rules;
- assess the current liability regime and third-party insurance requirement;
- define specific actions under Horizon 2020 and COSME to support the development of the RPAS market in the EU.
From an EESC point of view, the Commission proposal presents a number of elements that need to be debated with the relevant civil society stakeholders:
- developing the commercial RPAS market in the EU.
- ensuring high levels of safety, security and privacy, including insurance for civil responsibility.
- ensuring a precise and common terminology is used.
- Setting a realistic planning for European and international legislation, including weight classification.
- Coupling military and civil research and development.