European ‘Roadmap’ Begins Unmanned Integration in 2016

 - September 4, 2013, 1:20 AM

The European Commission released a final report on the integration of civil remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) into European airspace in June. The report’s aim is to achieve initial RPAS airspace integration, beginning with visual line-of-sight operations, in 2016.

Developed by European aviation technical organizations under the collective name ofthe European RPAS Steering Group, the 200-page report covers a wide swath of issues, requirements and plans over its proposed RPAS integration “roadmap,” covering the period 2013 to 2028.

In the report, the steering group establishes fundamental requirements for integrating RPAS. Among them: RPAS eventually should be able to operate in unrestricted airspace, mixed with a variety of manned aircraft from gliders to large airliners, under VFR or IFR conditions, subject to the airspace requirements in which they are operating. RPAS must comply with ATC procedures, including future “trajectory-based” or flight profile management requirements for manned aircraft. Specific allowances are made for light RPAS. The RPAS operator must hold a valid operator certificate and the remote pilot must hold a valid license.

From these fundamental requirements, the steering group developed three detailed annexes to the report, covering regulatory aspects, technology requirements and societal impacts of integrating RPAS into the airspace.

The regulatory aspects are linked to future ICAO standards and recommended practices (Sarps). Surprisingly the technology section estimates that a “full solution” for unmanned aircraft “detect and avoid” capability will not be achieved before 2021. The societal impacts section addresses key public questions of liability, insurance, privacy, benefits to EU citizens, acceptable risk and ethics.

“It’s a good report,” said one U.S. unmanned aircraft industry source, who preferred not to be named. “It’s maybe a line in the sand for us. While we’re battling over drones taking pictures of us in our backyards, the Europeans are getting down to business.”