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European aviation groups call for improved UAV safety

A group of European aviation bodies has called for a number of “urgent measures” to be taken in order to guarantee the safety of manned aviation as unmanned air vehicles are increasingly introduced into national airspace.

Agencies including the European Regions Airline Association, IATA, the European Helicopter Association and European Cockpit Association have called for action, prompted by a lack of harmonisation in regulation, despite the European Aviation Safety Agency’s intention to bring in new rulings that will address this concern.

“As a result of growth in both commercial and recreational markets, drone manufacturers and operators are seeking greater access to airspace, including that in which commercial aircraft are operating,” the group says. “Recent incidents in the surroundings of European airports or close to low-level helicopter operations are an illustration of the threats we are facing.”

EASA released a technical opinion last December, which will pave the way for a proportionate approach to the regulation of UAVs in Europe, and provide commonality across the continent as more control is handed to the safety agency and away from individual aviation authorities.

While the effort welcomes the release of this opinion, it claims that “more needs to be done with the increase in use of RPAS [remotely-piloted air systems], coupled with wider availability [of UAVs]”.

Noting that while the EASA proposal on UAV rulings does offer “practical and efficient possibilities, especially for commercial applications”, it says the recreational use of UAVs is on the rise, and is not necessarily being addressed.

“The recreational use of drones is rapidly increasing and the related risk of incidents and accidents with manned aviation must be mitigated,” it says. “In fact, irresponsible recreational and commercial drone use constitutes serious safety risks that are often underestimated.”

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In order to achieve the aim of ensuring safety, the consortium has called for a number of measures to be implemented. These include the launch of a public awareness campaign, the compulsory registration of all UAVs, mandatory training – including for the law enforcement of misuse – and built-in technical limitations within UAVs, such as geofencing and altitude and distance restrictions.

It also calls for more research to be carried out into the risk of collisions, and requests that recreational UAVs adhere to the same rules that apply to the use of model aircraft.

“The signatories of the statement want to support the effort of the European regulator to produce a robust harmonised EU-wide regulatory safety framework for drones,” it adds. “At the same time, the sector parties express their serious concern about the safety of manned aircraft in controlled and uncontrolled airspace.”

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