If you like drones and fly/operate one, for pleasure or business, our portal informs you about the basic requirements and applicable drone- related laws and regulations across the EU, Norway and Switzerland to save you, or your business, from trouble or – worse - legal claims. Our dedicated videos and documents, e.g. drone code of conduct, national summaries or handbooks, aim at raising your awareness and helping you - professional and recreational users alike – to fly safely but also legally and responsibly.
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UAVs, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, open up a very wide range of safety and legal issues that modern governments have not previously had to face. By placing the means of flight into the hands of virtually anyone, large numbers of safety, legal and privacy issues are opened up.
In the European Union, the SESAR Roadmap for 2020 (SESAR stands for Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Programme) will oversee some of these areas. Other international organisations, such as the United States' Federal Aviation Administration and the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority are also investigating this arena.
From a legal standpoint, there are many new issues that are raised by the use of drones and whilst coordination or harmonisation of the coming rules may not be strictly necessary, it would make a great deal of sense for international drone laws to be standardised.
Does The EU Need Commercial Or RC Drone Laws?
There are, of course, different levels of drone usage. At one level, the rc drone hobbyist who flies his craft very rarely – such as a quadcopter carrying a camera – ought to face a lighter burden than a professional or commercial organisation with much larger craft that fly for many hours. However, the reality is that air space safety, both for other users and those on the ground needs to be respected.
At the other end of the spectrum are military use UAVs that are almost as large as small planes, can fly for hours unseen thousands of metres in the air and even carry weapons. They are now used extensively by the United States in the Middle East. These craft also use air space and whether or not they can and should be used without civilian oversight will be a very contentious policy discussion.
In between these two extremes, we have all heard of the plans of businesses to use drones for commercial deliveries. Whether we will one day have our pizza or book orders delivered by air remains to be seen, but they will require significant legislation and insurance preparation, or else major cities could see large numbers of potentially dangerous box carrying devices flying through the air. There are extensive potential safety ramifications that will require new drone laws.
What Drone Insurance Regulations Should There Be?
It would seem clear that commercial entities will be required to carry some form of liability insurance for their UAVs. As their use grows, this is a sector that will evolve with it. Increasingly costly drones will need coverage.
What level of coverage should a hobbyist have? Should they be forced to purchase insurance at all? A wide range of situations could be imagined where a crash results in liabilities on the ground, causing either or both of personal injury and property damage.
Should There Be An EU Drone Permit?
At the heart of these decisions will be a debate on whom can own and fly and when and where it can be done. Should stores evolve to deliver postal orders locally by air, it would seem reasonable that being a full-time drone pilot ought to become a profession. In which case, an ecosystem of study, examinations, permits, licenses and ongoing training will need to be developed to oversee this space.
Who Should The Rules For Flying Drones Apply To?
We anticipate that discussions will need to be held for multiple layers of the space. Applying professional rules and safety standards to amateurs seems to be grossly unfair, but establishing which rules apply to which types of pilots will be important.
For example, should a child with a toy be expected to comply with safety standards and if so what? Should a recreational rc drone owner require a permit to fly? If a permit is required, who should issue it, who should enforce it's use? What rules for flying drones can sensibly be enforced?
What Privacy Laws Will Be Required?
The quality of cameras now available relatively inexpensively means that many privacy questions are raised by drone use. Few people would be able to know for sure what the camera on a drone could see when used over a property. This will inevitably lead to situations of conflict where residents try to repel the drone.
For many circumstances, an rc drone with a camera being flown is just a hobbyist filming friends and family. Such circumstances are mostly quite harmless. However, if the camera were filming for a government agency, a media outlet or some other commercial operation, the potential harm could be significant. The potential privacy invasions can only be imagined once the cameras have evolved enough to carry professional lenses and are being used by the mainstream media or paparazzi.
In countries or regions in Europe where hunting and firearms are both commonplace and legal, such situations could lead to residents shooting at drones to protect their property and privacy. Perhaps surprisingly, there are already a number of quite common Google searches where users are asking questions such as, “can I shoot down a drone over my property”. Whether it seems reasonable to us or not, conflict would seem to be inevitable somewhere. How will the sector handle it?
As the sector and this debate evolves in the field of EU Data Protection reform (e.g. adoption of the new General Data Protection regulation also called GDPR), DroneRules will work to ensure that it is at the heart of the discussion, leading Europe in a sensible and responsible direction. As an organisation we are active in multiple languages, such as French, German, Italian and Spanish and will continue to work to keep both professional and recreational users informed of their rights and responsibilities.