Looking back at the drone regulation in 2022
In Europe, this last year was the opportunity for several companies to pave the way forward using the new EU drone regulation (EU Reg. 2019/947 & Reg. 2019/945). Major milestones were reached over this past year.
One of the most interesting milestone are the very first class markings achieved for drones intended for the open category. Those class markings allow manufacturers to put UAS on the market in the open category and are essential for operations of drones in Visual Line of Sight at scale in the common European drone market.
To enable Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations at scale, 2022 has also brought some important advancements. For instance, Type certifications and design verifications were delivered and do so unlock the potential to overfly people for Visual Line of Sight and Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations.
While some companies followed the approach to demonstrate the reliability of their systems other choose to demonstrate the harmless character of their drone. To make those claims, new airworthiness processes as the EASA Design Verification and the Durability & Reliability (D&R) process were successfully implemented by the regulators and used by the industry.
The rulemaking process as well was not on rest during the year 2022. One of the major event of 2022 was the publication of the Report of the FAA’s BVLOS Aviation Rulemaking Committee that highlights the need for qualitative and quantitative methods in order to meet an Acceptable Level of Risk to unlock more complex drone operations.
The European Commission published the Drone Strategy 2.0 for a Smart and Sustainable Unmanned Aircraft Eco-System. In this context, the European Commission intents to establish Standardized Rules of the Air for the integration of Unmanned Aircraft and to create clear rules for the certification of drones as well as for the licensing of operators and training of pilots for the certified category.
What to expect for the drone regulation in 2023?
In 2023, the drone regulation will continue to mature. Currently, BVLOS operations at scale remain a challenge due to the airspace integration with collaborative and non-collaborative traffic. With the entry into force of the Reg. (EU) 2021/664, EASA member states are now able to define U-Space airspaces.
With this drone regulation, Europe has now the possibility to define zones at low altitudes where drone operators will benefit from Network identification, Geo-awareness, UAS flight authorization, and traffic information. This regulatory development towards a collaborative airspace will be a first of its kind airspace concept to enable the full potential of drones with higher degrees of autonomy.
The lessons obtained from the first design verifications and Specific Operations Risk Assesments in Europe will also serve to create means of compliance and guidance which will further clarify and standardize this nascent industry. Therefore, we will soon be able to see the deployment of more complex drone operations throughout the EASA member states.