Civil RPAS Operations – The Current European Context

The civil RPAS industry community consists of two principal stakeholder groups: RPAS manufacturers & RPAS operators. In this context, and in accordance with the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the term «operator» should be understood as persons, organizations or enterprises engaged in or offering to engage in an RPAS operation. The current regulatory context is not really stimulating for civil RPAS manufacturers and not very conducive to the development of an RPAS aerial work market with fair competition in Europe.

One of the principal reasons for this situation is that, even though various initial (and limited) national regulations relative to the operation of civil RPAS are now in place or about to enter into force (Czech Rep., France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK), these regulations have not been harmonized on a pan-European level. Consequently, it is currently not at all evident for an RPAS operator, registered in one European Union (EU) country, to be able to engage in an RPAS operation in another EU country; not to mention engaging in such activities outside of the EU. On top of that, there is no noteworthy RPAS regulatory activity in a significant number of European countries.

European Commission Initiatives

Thanks to the European Commission (EC) Hearing on Light RPAS, UVS International’s petition to the EC regarding Light RPAS, the EC’s High Level UAS Conference, and the EC’s subsequent UAS Panel initiative, the aforementioned situation has now been recognized by the EC. The EC UAS Panel initiative, in which UVS International was an active participant (market, industry & regulatory matters), highlighted the potential of civil RPAS for the development of a wide range of commercial and governmental applications with societal benefits, ultimately leading to the creation of a large market of innovative services to be provided by RPAS. In addition, the EC has concluded that civil RPAS, as well as related technologies, offer significant potential for job creation in both the industry and services sector, and thus will promote entrepreneurship and generate economic growth. The latter has lead to the conclusion that there is a need to accelerate the safe insertion of RPAS into European airspace. However, it has also been identified that liability, insurance, privacy, data protection, and public acceptance, are matters that have to be addressed to make this possible.

European RPAS Steering Group

In light of the above, the European RPAS Steering Group (ERSG) has been instigated by the EC. It had its first meeting on 6 July 2012. The ERSG is co-chaired by the EC’s Directorate-General Enterprise & Industry and Directorate-General Mobility & Transport and has participating representatives from the following stakeholders: Directorate-General Research, ASD, EASA, ECAC, EDA, ESA, EUROCAE, EUROCONTROL, SESAR JU, JARUS, UVS International, and ad hoc experts. The ERSG has as objective to foster the development of civil RPAS by planning and coordinating all the activities necessary to achieve the safe and incremental insertion of RPAS into European air traffic by 2016 (harmonized rules for RPAS <150 kg & common rules for RPAS >150 kg). The ERSG will be responsible to develop (prior to 31 Dec. 2012) a comprehensive yearly updatable roadmap defining milestones, the distribution of tasks among the stakeholders, and the timing for the insertion of civil RPAS in the European airspace, and to monitor the roadmap’s implementation. The success of this initiative will depend heavily on the commitment and contributions of all organizations involved.

International Civil Aviation Organization – UAS Study Group

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group (UASSG) has now been active for four years. It was established in response to a need for harmonization of terms, strategies and principles with respect to the regulatory framework States & international organizations were already engaged with developing.

The UASSG serves as the high level focal point for global interoperability, tasked by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with developing a regulatory concept, coordinating the development of UAS Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), contributing to the development of technical specifications by other bodies, and identifying communication requirements for RPAS in order that they can be integrated alongside manned aircraft in non-segregated airspace and at aerodromes.

Membership of the UASG includes the representatives of approximately 20 States (incl. Austria, Czech Rep., France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK) and 12 international organizations, including UVS International.

European Aviation Safety Agency

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), an EC agency, is, amongst others, responsible for the certification of aircraft and RPAS with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of more than 150 kg, as well as the certification of (remote) pilots and operators (persons, organizations or enterprises engaged in or offering to engage in an aircraft operation).

In August 2009, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued the Policy Statement E.Y013-01 – Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which establishes the general principles for type certification of RPAS. EASA has been actively involved in the ICAO UAS Study Group since its inception (and co-chairs it), and in all European RPAS-related regulatory initiatives. EASA also leads the ERSG regulatory sub-group.

EUROCONTROL

EUROCONTROL, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, an intergovernmental organization made up of 39 Member States and the European Commission, leads and supports air traffic management improvements across Europe, and plays a pivotal role in the Single European Sky initiative. EUROCONTROL has been actively involved in the ICAO UAS Study Group since its inception, as well as in all European RPAS-related regulatory initiatives (including EUROCAE WG73 of which it was one of the initiators).

On 1 June 2012, EUROCONTROL, in anticipation of its contributions to ERSG, as well as to various other organizations (including, but not limited to Working Group 93 on Light RPAS and the ULTRA Consortium), initiated a Regulatory Gap Analysis Survey amongst the members of the UAS Coordination Group (consisting of representatives of the regulatory authorities in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Rep., Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Rep., Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, UK). This regulatory gap analysis will list the current regulatory status in the involved countries and outline the factors that are required to reach the European RPAS regulatory framework. The result of this gap analysis should support the alignment of States, industry and national regulatory authorities with the future RPAS air traffic management integration activities. The conclusions of this survey are expected before the end of 2012.

SESAR Joint Undertaking

SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) is a European public-private partnership founded by the EC and EUROCONTROL, and has 15 industry members. Today the partnership also includes associate partners, associates to SJU members, and other key aviation stakeholders (EASA, airspace users, the military, staff associations, national authorities). SJU is managing the development phase of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Programme that will give Europe a high performance Air Traffic Management infrastructure enabling the safe & environmentally friendly development of air transport. In the definition phase of SESAR, RPAS developments did not have a significant impact. The evolution of the needs affecting the European airspace has made SJU undertake an update of the SESAR CONOPS, which will take the operational specificities of RPAS into consideration. In 2012, SJU launched a study on the integration of RPAS into non-segregated airspace. Based on this work, which is due to be completed after the summer of 2012, SJU will assess and – if necessary – launch, the activities required to enable the satisfactory integration of RPAS into the future civilian airspace. SJU actively participated in the EC UAS Panel and now leads the Research & Development sub-group of the SRSG.

National Aviation Authorities

The National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) of the 27 member states of the European Union are responsible for the rulemaking, certification, and operational approval of civil RPAS with a MTOM of less than 150 kg, RPAS flight crews (pilots) and operators (persons, organizations or enterprises engaged in or offering to engage in an RPAS operation) in their country. This situation could possibly generate 27 different sets of RPAS regulations, which would not be in the interest of the European RPAS community.

Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems

The Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) group federates the NAAs of 22 countries. JARUS has as objective to contribute to the harmonization and coordination of the rulemaking, certification, and operational approval of civil RPAS, RPAS flight crews (pilots) and operators (persons, organizations or enterprises engaged in or offering to engage in an RPAS operation). The intent is to eliminate the need for each country to write their individual requirements and to facilitate reciprocal acceptance of RPAS-related certificates, approvals and licenses. Each participating NAA will decide how to make use of the harmonized requirements developed by JARUS.

EUROCAE Working Group 73 on UAS

UVS International strongly contributed, in close co-ordination with EUROCONTROL and EASA on the European side, and the FAA & RTCA (EUROCAE’s US counterpart) on the American side, to the start up of EUROCAE (European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment) Working Group 73 (WG73) on UAS in April 2006. The objective of WG73, which is made up of industry representatives and regulatory representatives, is to deliver proposals for standards & guidance relative to RPAS with a MTOM of more than 150 kg for consideration to EASA. The work in WG73 continues to progress and UVS International continues to support this very important initiative.

EUROCAE Working Group 93 on Light RPAS

Subsequent to a proposal made by UVS International in March 2011, the EUROCAE Working Group 93 on Light RPAS was kicked off on 23 May 2012 (currently 157 participants from 21 countries). It has an initial 2-year programme, which has as objective to gather information, analyse it and make recommendations in a number of defined areas (14 work packages) relative to civil Light RPAS regulation (VLOS & BLOS operations). This work will be accomplished by means of a «sharepoint» web site, which has been initiated to make it possible for small & medium-sized enterprises to participate without incurring travel expenses. As its standing advisor, UVS International is an active participant of the group’s management team.

Qualified Entities

The basis for Qualified Entities in Europe is derived from EC Regulation No 216/2008, Article 13 and Annex V. In the UK, CAP553 enshrined the use of Qualified Entities (QEs) by the Civil Aviation Authority; to date only one QE has been approved in the UK. As indicated in the CAP722 document (5th edition, 10 Aug. 2012), the UK CAA can, in accordance with its «Light UAS Policy», grant permission to allow the operation of a Light RPAS (MTOM <150 kg), and uses an accredited Qualified Entity (QE) to carry out airworthiness assessments on its behalf. The QE is to produce the required positive recommendations, following appropriate examination of design and manufacture and witnessing of a successful programme of function and reliability flight-testing. A suitably approved  QE can also assess RPAS flight crew (pilots) for competence (and grant the relevant qualification) and RPAS operators for competence (granting the relevant certificates). The QE develops the criteria to be applied for approval by the CAA. A number of other European NAAs have decided to also call for the establishment of national QE(s) or to recognize recommendations made by QEs in other States. Please note that WG93 on Light RPAS has a specific Work Package dealing with recommendations to NAAs for the introduction of QEs.

ULTRA Consortium

On 27 June 2012, the kick-off meeting of the ULTRA (Unmanned Aerial Systems in European Airspace) Consortium took place. The EC has awarded an 18-month study contract to ULTRA under its «Coordination and Support Actions» within the framework of the EC’s Seventh Framework Programme. This contract has as an objective, based on a viable business case approach, to develop a recommendation relative to the pragmatic and incremental insertion of civil Light RPAS (< 150 kg) into European airspace. For each step, the impact on European industry and quality of life will be quantified, and the regulatory and technology needs, as well as the required social acceptance actions will be highlighted. The ULTRA conclusions will be fed into the ERSG.

Survey on Civil RPAS Operations

UVS International is organizing a survey on currently on-going RPAS operations in Europe. This survey will make it possible to identify current European RPAS operators (persons, organizations or enterprises engaged in or offering to engage in an aircraft operation), catalogue the currently on-going civil RPAS operations, identify the wishes of this community in the field of regulatory and operational developments relative to their anticipated future activities. This survey will also permit the European civil RPAS community to identify itself. The survey conclusions will be presented at the RPAS Aerial Work 2012 conference, and made available to all survey participants, as well as to ICAO UASSG, ERSG, EASA, EUROCONTROL, EUROCAE WG73 & WG93, SESAR JU and the ULTRA Consortium.

The Civil RPAS Operators’ Community

When the activities of the aforementioned organizations start to bear fruit, the incremental opening of the European airspace to RPAS operations will instigate an acceleration of the creation of new commercial, and non-commercial, civil RPAS operators, many of which will be small and medium-sized companies.

However, the existing RPAS operators are not federated on a European level (nor in most cases on a national level), and they are not recognized as an aviation stakeholder group. Subsequently, they cannot make their voice heard, nor contribute, in a coordinated way, to the on-going construction of the European regulatory framework, which will govern their future activities. And because of the fragmentation of the civil RPAS operators’ community, it cannot negotiate attractive insurance policies with favourable premiums.

Furthermore, due to its non-existence as a community, civil RPAS operators cannot self-impose and oversee the adherence to a community «code of conduct» by its members on a national, and even less on a European level. Such a code of conduct could be promoted as a «label of quality» to potential customers, and to insurers. In addition, adherence to such a code of conduct or label of quality, could contribute to eliminating unfair competition from rogue operators not abiding by such rules.

Finally, due to the fact that the civil RPAS operators’ community does not exist as a recognized entity, it is impossible for the European Commission and its agencies to scope this community and address themselves to it.

This situation has been recognized by UVS International, as well as by the European Commission and its agencies.

As a consequence of the aforementioned, UVS International proposes to start-up a Civil RPAS Committee to represent the interests of this community. Participation in this committee will be possible for representatives of RPAS operators from all countries, as long as they are a corporate member of UVS International. For more information on this initiative contact UVS International.

RPAS CivOps 2012 Conference

The RPAS CivOps 2012 conference is being organized by UVS International, in cooperation with the Belgian Royal Military Academy, and is coordinated with the European Commission (European RPAS Steering Group).

RPAS CivOps 2012 will take place in the conference centre of the Royal Military Academy in Brussels, Belgium on 4 & 5 December 2012.

This conference intends to bring together representatives of the following communities and organizations:

  • Current civil RPAS operators [commercial & non-commercial (research, governmental non-military)]
  • Organizations currently involved in preparing the future regulations for civil RPAS on a national & European level (incl. ERSG, EASA, EUROCONTROL, JARUS, SESAR JU, EUROCAE WG73 & WG93 on Light RPAS, ULTRA Consortium)
  • Manufacturers of civil RPAS (all aircraft types of all sizes)
  • Manufacturers of sub-systems for RPAS (including imagery & non-imagery sensors)
  • National aviation authorities
  • European Commission, Directorate General Enterprise & Industry
  • European Commission, Directorate General Mobility & Transport
  • European Commission, Directorate General Research
  • European Commission Joint Research Centre
  • Insurance companies (underwriters & brokers)
  • National associations involved with RPAS
  • National working groups involved with RPAS
  • Current & potential customers of flight services supplied with RPAS.

The objectives of this conference are to:

  • Increase awareness relative to currently on-going civil RPAS operations (commercial & non-commercial; non-governmental & governmental)
  • Give a selected number of current civil RPAS operators the possibility to state their requirements (re: regulatory matters & remotely piloted aircraft & sensors)
  • Contribute to identifying the civil RPAS community to itself
  • Highlight the diversity of current & potential civil RPAS applications and present business case examples
  • Disseminate information on the currently on-going civil RPAS-related regulatory activities in Europe
  • Disseminate information on recently concluded studies pertaining to civil RPAS applications
  • Permit potential customers of RPAS flight services to express their requirements
  • Create a forum for current and future civil RPAS operators, RPAS manufacturers and the representatives of the organizations that are involved in preparing the future for civil RPAS operations to interact
  • Present novel civil RPAS applications
  • Discuss critical issues such as command & control frequencies (in various environments)
  • Highlight current technology & regulatory gaps

The topics to be covered by the conference will include:

  • Current & future applications
  • Regulatory issues (national & European)
  • Operator technical & performance requirements (VLOS & BLOS)
  • System & sub-system development updates
  • Technology crunch points
  • Aerial work customer requirements
  • Operational experience & lessons learned

Within the framework of the conference’s objective to disseminate pertinent information, a JARUS panel discussion will take place to make it possible for:

a)         JARUS representatives to brief the conference attendees on their recent, on-going work and upcoming work, and to give their views on European regulatory harmonization;

b)         Conference attendees to ask questions and have a public dialogue with the JARUS representatives.

In view of the anticipated establishment of a Qualified Entity in several European countries, this topic (including the organizational qualifications required to become a one) will be discussed during this panel.

All information relative to the RPAS CivOps 2012 conference can be found on www.rpas-CivilOps.org

For additional information, contact Peter van Blyenburgh at: Tel.: +33-1-40.71.83.43 or pvb@uvs-info.com .

www.uvs-info.com & www.uvs-international.org

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