Second Drone Strategy for EU

When it comes to expanding civilian drone operations within its member countries, the European Union is leaving no stone unturned, and all we can do in Africa at the moment is marvel.

And salivate.

Since 2014 when the European Commission started working on harmonising drone regulations under the Single European Sky initiative, there have since been the first drone strategy, a host of pilot projects to test the integration of various drones into industries that include delivery, survey and mapping, environmental monitoring; and even passenger transportation.

Projects on using drones for medical air deliveries, transporting medical samples between healthcare services are also making good progress. The implementation of the ‘U-space’ in January 2023, a European system to manage drone traffic safely, will lay the ground for increased operations.

In this regard, yesterday the commission announced that it would be adopting the European Drone Strategy 2.0, which it says sets out a vision for the further development of the European drone market.

According to statement from the commission, the latest strategy builds on the EU’s safety framework for operating and setting the technical requirements of drones; besides laying out how Europe can pursue large-scale commercial drone operations while offering new opportunities in the sector.

“With the arrival of a new generation of electrically powered aircraft capable of operating in an urban and regional environment, we need to ensure that, beyond maintaining the safety of operations in our skies, conditions meet both the operators’ commercial needs and citizens’ expectations with regard to privacy and security,” said the EU Commissioner for Transport.

“Today’s Strategy not only widens Europe’s capacity to pursue large-scale commercial drone operations but also offers new opportunities, in particular to small and medium-sized enterprises. With the right framework in place, the drone services market in Europe could be worth €14.5 billion, and create 145,000 jobs, by 2030.”

Before pushing ahead with these innovative technologies, the Commission says its wants to ensure a societal buy in for drone technology from all citizens in the EU; hence a section of the latest strategy is dedicated to addressing concerns over noise, safety and privacy and ensuring that drone services are aligned with citizens’ needs.

Pending social acceptance of drone technology, the new strategy envisions the use of unmanned aerial systems in areas that include emergency services, inspection and surveillance, unmanned air mobility to become part of the European daily life by 2030.

Nineteen actions for tomorrow’s drone market

The Commission says its new strategy will also launch work on the nineteen operational, technical and financial flagship actions to build the right regulatory and commercial environment for tomorrow’s drone air space and market:

  1. Adopting common rules for airworthiness, and new training requirements for remote and eVTOL (manned electric Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft pilots.
  2. Funding the creation of an online platform to support local stakeholders and industry implementing sustainable Innovative Air Mobility.
  3. Developing a Strategic Drone Technology Roadmap to identify priority areas for research and innovation, to reduce existing strategic dependencies and avoid new ones arising.
  4. Defining criteria for a voluntary cybersecurity-approved drone label.

This work will prepare the way for large-scale commercial operations and ensure that Europe benefits from synergies between the civil, security and military use of drones and related technologies, including counter-drone solutions.

“Unleashing the potential of the EU drone market and services requires the identification of critical technology building blocks, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, semi-conductors and EU space services and mobile telecommunications,” said the EC.

“This will help the EU build an innovative and competitive drone sector, reducing strategic dependencies. The Strategy also identifies areas for synergies between civil and defence drones, and for increased counter-drone capabilities and system resilience.”

While the EU seems to move ahead in leaps and bounds; in our home continent in Africa, progress seems to have stalled at the preparatory phase. After the hugely successful drone forum in Rwanda in 2020; there was lively talk of harmonising drone laws across the continent, citing the need for common aviation laws continent-wide so operators will have smooth operations should their operations require them to move across national borders.

Sadly, no tangible progress seem to have been made since then; perhaps because there are still nations on the continent that are yet to promulgate drone laws within their statutes; while there are still others that are against drone technology within their border altogether.

It looks like we have a long way to go, despite gains made by drones for good in a number of African countries.

Only the East African Community’s Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) has made positive steps towards harmonising aviation laws in the East African region.

The organisation is responsible for airworthiness inspections of aircraft and airport facilities in the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi are in the process merging their aviation laws with the agency.

CASSOA is working towards harmonising the aviation regulations of the six member states, such that a licence acquired in one state should be valid in the five other member states making the EAC.

As for the harmonisation of drone laws on the continent; we can only wait for now.

And hope.

And maybe pray.


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