With the increased use of drones for both private and commercial flight, it has become a challenge for lawmakers to legislate operation to ensure that safety requirements are met. The countries that quickly adapt their rules to drone flight will arguably be in the best position to gain benefits, and the European Union seems to recognize this with a recent statement.
A special commission set up to develop a unified European air traffic control system has recently announced that drones will be covered in any new rules, and they hope to have a complete set of these rules outlined by 2019. The rules will cover safe autonomous operation, and are aimed not just to make the skies safer, but also to help make it easier for innovators to operate within the EU.
The EU has the long term goal of monitoring and managing drone traffic, in much the same way that manned commercial and private flights are controlled today. While it might be years or even decades before such a traffic control system becomes a reality, members from the commission say that short term goals like a drone registration system and rules around areas of operation could be implemented within two to three years.
Keeping the European Union Competitive
For anyone who has been following drone news closely, it won’t be surprising to see a large political organization like the EU making moves on the drone industry. Recently, President Donald Trump’s administration started taking steps to engage innovators and potential investors, hoping to create a strong drone industry in the United States. With the White House taking action, the EU cannot afford to be left behind. So it’s important that they take steps now to start finalizing the rules of drone operation within all of their member states.
Even with competition, there may still be some room for collaboration when it comes to the technology that is used in drones. While the majority of consumer drones are designed and manufactured in China, there are a number of commercial designers and manufacturers throughout the US and the EU. If any single market innovates a particular safety feature or software algorithm, it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to then license their technology to companies or governments in other markets.
An example could be in how drones respond to restricted airspaces. At this time in the United States and the EU (and most countries), it is forbidden to operate a private or commercial drone within a restricted airspace. However, in many cases, no legislation exists when it comes to the technology that drones use to avoid restricted airspace. From the point of view of the FAA, it is the operator’s responsibility to avoid the airspace. However, a number of commercial and enthusiast drones already incorporate geofencing technology, which uses positioning data to automatically avoid the no-fly zones.
With the EU planning to solidify their rules in coming years, it could be predicted that they would enforce some kind of geofencing technology and even tracking technology on all registered drones. A solution of this kind will become essential as more drones become fully autonomous, without pilots or spotters being used to avoid restricted areas or obstacles in the flight path.
Drone Technology Become More Important Every Day
Ten years ago, the use of drones by companies and enthusiasts was extremely rare and expensive. With technology becoming more affordable and readily available, there are now millions of drones in the skies around the world. To see that governments are taking more interest in drones, can only mean safer skies and better operating conditions for everyone. It also opens the way for investors and more technology companies to get involved in the market, particularly if it becomes safer and more regulated.