UK-headquartered trade body the European Regions Airlines Association (ERA) claims that air passengers are being put at risk by the growing use of unmanned air vehicles, and has called for more regulation and control over their use.

The increase in the reports of near misses between remotely piloted air systems and manned aircraft “is threatening the safety of European airspace”, the ERA says, adding that “urgent measures” are required to safeguard airspace and incorporate UAV operations into commercial airspace.

“Recent near misses between RPAS and commercial aircraft illustrate why swift action must be taken to protect Europe’s passengers, crews and residents through better regulation of European airspace with regards to RPAS,” Simon McNamara, director general of ERA, says.

He says two aircraft proximity events in July highlight the growing problem, with incidents involving UAVs reported by commercial airline pilots on approach to both Warsaw International and London Heathrow airports.

“Worryingly, only some EU member states have regulations for the flying of smaller RPAS in place,” McNamara adds. “With a dramatic increase in the use and commercialisation of RPAS, European aviation needs to act now to harmonise standards and rules across the region.”

ERA's comments come at a time when EASA is in the process of harmonising its regulations so that UAVs are categorised proportionate to the risk they pose, an initiative which is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

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Pilot representative body the European Cockpit Association (ECA) is also calling for more control over UAV use. In July it issued a notice to EASA to ensure that any proposed regulations consider the safety of the public and manned aviation ahead of the right of recreational operators to be able to fly their systems.

Given the damage just one serious accident involving a UAV would do to the development of the industry, “thought-out, effective, efficient regulation” is required, it says.

“RPAS weighing less than 150kg are regulated by some states, and those above by the European Aviation Safety Agency,” ERA adds. “However, the rapid increase in the RPAS market for recreational purposes, particularly smaller RPAS, is a significant hazard to commercial aircraft.”

EASA is looking to change this categorisation so that all sizes of UAVs fall under the new European ruling. “ERA welcomes the work being done by EASA and others to integrate RPAS into Europe’s aviation system in a safe and risk-free manner, which will allow this innovative technology to grow in a safe way,” McNamara says, adding that nevertheless, action needs to be taken now with regulators and industry groups “joining forces to tackle this issue together”.

EASA issued a notice in early August calling for feedback from interested parties on its proposed proportionate ruling ahead of the release of the final framework, with responses due by 25 September.