European Union Publishes Drone Usage Laws

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No more wild west? More regulations for drone operators with set of common rules for the region

The use of drones across the European Union will be governed by a new set of rules that have been “published to ensure drone operations across Europe are safe and secure.”

The new rules comes after various countries including the UK, began tightening local laws after a number of serious incidents surrounding the unmanned aircraft.

Days before Christmas, Gatwick took the unprecedented decision to close its single runway after drones were spotted. Every time attempts were made to re-open the runaway, the drone appeared once again.


UK clampdown

Despite an extensive police search and the use of military systems, as well as £50,000 reward, the unidentified drone operators were not caught. A couple were arrested, but were released without charge.

The complete shutdown of Gatwick airport during the busy Christmas period and widespread disruption had political implications with the Prime Minister Theresa May warning that the activity was illegal and those caught could face five years in prison.

In the UK it used to be illegal to fly a drone in the vicinity (0.6 miles or 1 kilometre) of an airport, as well as fly drones “beyond the direct unaided line of sight”.

Flights near crowds of people and near buildings are also prohibited.

Read More: Can you fly drones in London?

But from 13 March under the Government’s Drones Bill, it is illegal to fly a drone within three miles of an airport. The government also wants to give police new stop and search powers to clamp down on people misusing drones.

Drones pose a danger to aircraft, especially during takeoff and landings. In 2016 for example, a ‘drone‘ collided with an BA A320 passenger jet that was on final approach to London’s Heathrow Airport.

European law

Into this the European Union has finally decided to act and bring out its own rules.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said the regulations, which will apply universally across the region, are intended to help drone operators (whether professional or recreational) to have a clear understanding of what is and is not allowed.

“Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring safe, secure and sustainable operations of drones both, for commercial and leisure activities,” said said Patrick Ky, Executive Director of EASA. “Common rules will help foster investment, innovation and growth in this promising sector.”

The new rules will also allow drone operators to conduct their business across borders.

“Once drone operators have received an authorisation in the state of registration, they are allowed to freely circulate in the European Union,” said the EASA. “This means that they can operate their drones seamlessly when travelling across the EU or when developing a business involving drones around Europe.”

The new rules include technical as well as operational requirements for drones, and are intended to replace existing national rules in EU Member States.

All drones will have to be individually identifiable, allowing the authorities to trace a particular drone if necessary.

The new rules will come into place in the next 20 days, but it will only be applicable in one year, to give Member States and operators time to prepare and implement it.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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