European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) executive director Patrick Ky sees no need to develop a comprehensive set of worldwide standards for unmanned aircraft as their use is “very local.” However, in a meeting with the transport committee of the European Parliament this week he urged all stakeholders to agree on what the acceptable level of noise and the targeted level of safety is for autonomously operated aircraft flying in urban environments.
“I think that if we want to push forward—and I think we should—with the use of drones in cities, we need an answer on this as soon as possible because it will trigger a lot of constraints for the development of the drone industry,” Ky told the committee.
In his view, if the acceptable noise level turns out to be very low, no current unmanned aircraft would be able to fly in urban areas and their deployment would be limited to specific zones, such as over rivers.
Ky added that a closer definition of the acceptable safety risk from these flights “possibly will have an impact on the weight of drones and redundant systems that they can carry on board.”
In response to a question of a member of the European Parliament at to whether Europe is lagging the rest of the world in making plans for unmanned aircraft operations in civil airspace, Ky said that he believes the European Union to be “quite advanced” compared to other countries, pointing to Germany-based new aircraft programs Volocopter and Lilium as examples of projects that are achieving technical maturity.
“The only country that I know is ahead of us for commercial use of drones for delivery in urban environments is Australia, where the city of Canberra has been operating a Google Wing project for the delivery of parcels for the last two years,” stated Ky.
Following an 18-month trial, Australia’s civil aviation safety authority in April granted formal approval for Wing to operate a drone delivery business in the Australian capital. “My Australian counterpart told me that based on the feedback received from the citizens of Canberra that by far the main concern is not the fear of something flying over their heads. It is the noise,” concluded Ky.