Europe

Photo courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

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Last updated on May 30, 2024

European Commission (EC)

The European Commission plays an active role in developing the EU’s overall strategy and in designing and implementing EU policies. It evaluates and reports on its policies on a regular basis. The Commission is steered by a group of 27 Commissioners, known as ‘the college’. Together they take decisions on the Commission’s political and strategic direction. A new college of Commissioners is appointed every 5 years. Along with the other main EU institutions, the European Commission develops the overall strategy and political direction of the EU. The European Commission develops and implements EU policies by:

  • proposing laws to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union
  • helping EU countries implement EU legislation
  • managing the EU’s budget and allocating funding
  • ensuring that EU law is complied with together with the Court of Justice
  • representing the EU outside Europe together with the EU’s diplomatic service, the European External Action Service

EU policies are designed to bring benefits to citizens, businesses and other stakeholders in the EU. Commission initiatives for new policies have to be agreed on internally according to a set procedure. Better regulation tools ensure that each new policy is based on evidence and best available practice.

European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)

Thirty-one countries belong to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that was established in 2002. These are the 27 European Union (EU) countries plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

The mission of EASA is to:

(1) ensure the highest common level of safety protection for EU citizens;

(2) ensure the highest common level of environmental protection;

(3) single regulatory and certification process among member states;

(4) facilitate the internal aviation single market and create a level playing field; and

(5) work with other international aviation organizations and regulators.

For ease throughout this book, I have indicated below the country’s name whether or not it is a member state of the EU and EASA. The goal of the EU is to promote peace and security while respecting fundamental rights and freedoms.

Easy access rules for UAS (Regulation (EU) 2019/947 and Regulation (EU) 2019/945 contains the rules and procedures for the operation of UA, displayed in a consolidated, east-to-read format, with advanced navigation features through links and bookmarks. In addition to Civil Drones, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, EASA is implementing Urban Air Mobility (UAM). EASA also provides Drones – National Aviation Authorities, with drone website references by country, as supplied by the respective NAA/CAA.

On December 20, 2022, EASA published the first set of Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material (AMC/GM) to support the harmonized, safe and efficient implementation of U-space across the European Union. The term “U-space” has been adopted to describe the management of unmanned aircraft traffic to ensure the safe interaction with other entities using the same space in urban areas and any other location.

AMC and GM to Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021-664 Issue 1 is the outcome of a collaboration led by EASA involving more than 30 experts and representatives of civil aviation authorities and industry. The AMC/GM for the U-space regulatory framework have been developed taking account of the latest developments from industry and U-space stakeholders and represent the state-of-the-art of the U-space concept, systems and technology. The AMC/GM comprehensively address the numerous aspects and actors of the U-space regulation, paving the way for a fair, efficient, safe, and secure implementation of U-space in Europe.  EASA now looks forward to the next steps of the U-space implementation, formally started all over Europe on 26 January 2023 with the entry into force of the U-space regulatory framework (Regulations (EU) 2021/664, (EU) 2021/665 and (EU) 2021/666).

In the near future, implementation will continue with the first U-space airspace designations and U-space service provider (USSP) certifications. Beyond the establishment of the regulatory framework, EASA will continue to actively contribute to the U-space implementation by certifying third country (non-EU) USSPs intending to deliver services in Europe.

 

In January 2023, EASA published the 12th edition of its annual 5-year rulemaking program, which is called the ‘European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS)’. This document is prepared in close collaboration with the Agency’s various stakeholders, and sets out the strategic priorities and main risks affecting the European aviation system, and defines the necessary actions to mitigate them, with the primary objective of further improving aviation safety. This edition of the EPAS sets out the rulemaking activities of the Agency which relate to UAM.

 

In August 2023, EASA published a list of available open category drones with class mark. From January 1, 2024 the drone regulation will become fully applicable and the open category will benefit from drones with a class mark. Drones with a C1 marking weighing up to 900 g will be able to conduct operations in populated areas (as defined in A1 subcategory). Drones up to 4 kg with a C2 marking will be able to fly as close as 5 m to uninvolved people (as defined in A2 subcategory). On the same date, the EU standard scenarios will become applicable, allowing for a streamlined authorization process which will be more straightforward for European citizens.

Drone manufacturers have already placed several compliant drones on the market and EASA has published an overview of compliant drones with a class mark that are already available on the EU market. This data will be included as part of the upcoming EASA Sustainable Air Mobility Hub (‘the Hub’) and will be updated regularly. The Hub is an online platform made available by EASA for authorities, communities, municipalities, industry and stakeholders to support sustainable drone market implementation. It constitutes flagship 7 of the EU Drone Strategy 2.0. A CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA).

Drones and AAM

European Drone Strategy 2.0

What is U-Space?

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/664 of 22 April 2021 — Regulatory framework for the U-space

U-Space

2024 – Remote identification will become mandatory for drones across Europe

 

Map of EU courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

EU flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

 

EASA Classes of UAS

On June 12, 2023, EASA announced the release of its guidelines to establish the noise levels of drones below 600 kg, which aim at providing harmonized procedures to measure the noise of drones used in the low and medium-risk operations of the ‘specific’ category. This release expands on the initial public consultation phase, after collecting around 90 comments from UAS manufacturers, operators, academia and national aviation authorities.

In addition to the guidelines, EASA is also providing a template for a typical noise report that applicants or declarants can use to submit noise data, as well as a self-explanatory spreadsheet assisting the noise adjustment procedures.

Guidelines on Noise Measurement of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Lighter than 600 kg Operating in the Specific Category (Low and Medium Risk)

 

December 2023 – A drone for Christmas?

December 2023 – Remote identification will become mandatory for drones across Europe

From 1 January 2024, all drones operating in the specific category and all drones with class marks operating in the open category will be required to operate with an active and up-to-date remote identification system.

 

C-UAS

European C-UAS

Drone Incident Management at Aerodromes

 

Aug 2023 – European Space Agency Report: AI Watches the Skies – Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a powerful tool in today’s data-rich society, enabling us to collect, analyze, and leverage information in unprecedented ways, even within space programs. An exciting example is the integration of AI into satellite navigation, spearheaded by the engineering teams of the European Space Agency’s NAVISP program, collaborating closely with European industry and academia to revolutionize navigation technologies. As a result, an expanding array of prototype services has emerged, each with diverse applications that contribute to enhancing space and Earth weather forecasting, optimizing the performance of self-driving vehicles and marine vessels, and effectively identifying unauthorized drones in sensitive airspace. The combination of AI and space exploration promises to shape the future of navigation and further advance our understanding and utilization of data-driven solutions.

AI as a Tool in Drone Detection – The NAVISP program’s MEDuSA project is tackling the rising issue of intrusive drones by looking skyward. The problem of drones accidentally or intentionally intruding into sporting events, ports, and critical infrastructure is on the rise. A prominent example occurred in December 2018 when Gatwick Airport in the UK had to be closed for three days, leading to the cancellation of numerous flights due to repeated drone sightings near airport runways.

MEDuSA introduces an innovative radar-based approach that can detect drones in all weather conditions and estimate their trajectories. This approach utilizes GNSS signals as the radar signal source of opportunity for sensors to detect drones within the area of interest. It particularly leverages Galileo signals known for their exceptional stability and incorporates the added-value Open Service Navigation Message Authentication service to enhance robustness and protect against spoofing attacks. MEDuSA’s sophisticated algorithms employ ‘forward scattering detection,’ which detects slight signal phase anomalies caused by the passage of drones.

To further enhance the system’s capabilities, Machine Learning (ML) techniques are employed in combination with predictive ‘Kalman filters.’ This ML-driven data analysis allows the derivation of the drone’s onward trajectory, enabling timely alarms and appropriate countermeasures to be deployed, effectively addressing the drone intrusion problem.

 

October 2023 – Handbook on UAS protection of critical infrastructure and public spaceA five phase approach for C-UAS stakeholders

The handbook provides advice on how to protect against malicious UAS and provides guidelines, references, approaches and considerations. It covers detection, tracking, identification and neutralization through the processes of risk analysis, solution design, implementation and operation of a solution. It explains the importance of combining systems and processes with the involvement of stakeholders to create a complete solution. This handbook is a key component of the Commission’s C-UAS package, announced as a flagship action under the Commission communication ‘A drone strategy 2.0 for a smart and sustainable unmanned aircraft eco-system in Europe’ 2 . This package includes a dedicated C-UAS communication, outlining the main ideas for the EU’s future policy on how to address the potential threats posed by UAS. As part of the drive to provide continuous practical support to EU Member States and stakeholders, the JRC has produced two handbooks; the first is this five-phased approach to developing a C-UAS solution, while the second contains a series of recommendations for assessing the risks stemming from the malicious use of UAS, complemented with advice regarding the physical hardening of non-military infrastructures against such threats.

 

Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)

According to EASA, UAM is expected to become a reality in Europe within 3-5 years (from the time of this writing in 2023). New technologies such as electric propulsion and enhanced battery capacity, applied to vertical take-off and landing systems, make this possible.

The first commercial operations are expected to be the delivery of goods by drones and the transport of passengers, initially with a pilot on board. Later remote piloting or even autonomous services could follow. Several pilot projects are under way and some European manufacturers have already applied for certification, including for piloted vehicles for passenger transport. EASA is working with them on the airworthiness of the vehicles.

The EU, and EASA in particular, have an important role to play in enabling this breakthrough and so helping European industry be a first mover at global level.

Special Condition for small-category VTOL aircraft

UAM Infographic

EASA publishes world’s first rules for operation of air taxis in cities

EASA proposes rules for VTOL operations, including air taxis

Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL)

European Commission adopts regulatory package, giving go-ahead for VTOL operations and air taxis

Accelerating Development of the Electric Aviation Sector in Europe

 

EASA  has started creating the UAM regulatory framework, building notably on the results of a 2021 UAM study on societal acceptance. Some building blocks have already been achieved:

On airworthiness, EASA has been the first in the world to publish in July 2019 a Special Condition to authorize small VTOL aircraft operations, in 2020 for Light Unmanned Aircraft Systems operating in medium risk situations, and in 2021 Guidelines on the design verification of UAS operating in the specific category .

On operations and pilot licensing, in early 2019 EASA has launched preparatory activities that will lead to rules for the pilots/remote pilots of these vehicles, their operators and for the infrastructure, e.g. vertiport operators.

On airspace integration, EASA has prepared a worlds-first U-Space/UTM regulatory package (Commission Implementing regulations 2021/6642021/665 & 2021/666, adopted by the European Commission on 22 of April 2021; this package will become applicable early 2023 and will enable the safe integration of UAS operations in urban environment.

On the R&D side, EASA is also engaged in a large number of projects (AMU-LEDSAFIR-MedCORUS-XUAMAirMour and EASA may get involved in other additional ones such as GOF 2.0TINDAIRUspace4UAM); it has also signed the Manifesto (of several cities) of the UAM initiatives by European cities (EU Smart Cities Marketplace).

Full Report – Study on the societal acceptance of Urban Air Mobility in Europe

It was announced on November 3, 2022 at the International AAM event hosted by NASA that ICAO is setting up a special working group to address AAM and EASA is on track to produce a regulatory framework towards the middle of 2023.

In the absence of suitable certification specifications for the type certification of VTOLs, EASA developed  a complete set of dedicated technical specifications in the form of a Special Condition for VTOL aircraft. The Special Condition addresses the unique characteristics of these products and prescribes airworthiness standards for the issuance of a type certificate to ensure that VTOLs are following necessary safety requirements. The Special Condition, published in July 2019 launched the framework for manufacturers to develop innovative VTOL.

EASA is now in the process of creating new rules and revising existing ones to address new technologies, operational air transport concepts, flight crew and operator licensing requirements with the objective to be agile and to adapt the regulatory framework to be in line with Performance-Based Regulations principles.

 

ToR AMT.0731 – Terms of Reference Rulemaking Task 0731

The current common European regulatory framework for civil aviation safety was initially designed for conventional fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, balloons, airships, and sailplanes. The existing framework relies on the active contribution of human beings, increasingly assisted by automation, be it on board or on the ground. Propulsion is mostly provided by piston or turbine engines, using fossil fuels. The introduction of new technologies and air transport concepts (from multimodal vehicles to autonomous vehicles) requires revisiting this framework.

The objective of this Rulemaking Task (RMT).0731 is to address new technologies and operational air transport concepts by adapting, where necessary, the regulatory framework. A general principle that governs this RMT is that future requirements should be technology neutral, where possible, e.g. performance-based instead of prescriptive, while ensuring legal certainty.

This RMT includes the following three streams of activities (Subtasks):

  • Continuing Airworthiness (CAW) rules for electric and hybrid propulsion aircraft and other non traditional aircraft (Subtask 1);
  • Aircrew and Air Operations rules for gyroplanes (Subtask 2); and
  • Aircrew, Airspace Usage, and Air Operations rules for tilt rotors (Subtask 3).

Note: this draft RMT.0731 Issue 2, introduces Subtasks 2 and 3 for consultation with the EASA’s Advisory Bodies (EASA ABs). ToR RMT.0731 Issue 1 on Subtask 1 was published on September 09, 2020 following consultation with the EASA ABs.

ToR RMT.0230 is an introduction of a regulatory framework for the operation of UAS and for UAM in the EU aviation system

RMT.0230 Issue 4

ToR RMT.0730 is a regular update of the acceptable means of compliance and guidance material to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 on the rules and procedures for the operation of UA

RMT.0730 Issue 1

 

Prototype Technical Design Specifications for Vertiports

The Marketplace of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) – The European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) is a major market changing undertaking supported by the European Commission bringing together cities, industries, SMEs, investors, researchers and other smart city actors. The EIP-SCC Marketplace plays a distinctive and new role compared to other European Commission platforms. Engaging cities, industry and financiers in interest matching activities, leading to project design and delivery shall be the Marketplace’s team objective. Building solutions and facilitation are the two main tasks of the Marketplace to help deliver investments.

 

2021 – Skyports Will Build and Operate the First Test Vertiport in Europe

2023 – EASA proposes environmental protection technical specs for eVTOL aircraft noise assessment

2023 – EASA and ANAC to collaborate on eVTOL certification

2023 – Eve, Blade expand partnership to accelerate electric air mobility in Europe

 

CIVITAS UAM

Urban Mobility Next 8 Expectations and success factors for Urban Air Mobility in Europe

AiRMOUR – #1 What is Urban Air Mobility? – Recording from a lecture that took place in May 2022. Consultants working on the EU-funded AiRMOUR project explain the emerging concept of third-dimension air travel, specifically UAM.

2022 – AiRMOUR’s pioneering survey collected opinions from over 1000 citizens on drones and Urban Air Mobility

2023 – CORUS-XUAM – The CORUS-XUAM project is being undertaken by the same consortium as delivered the CORUS U-space Concept of Operations in 2019, again coordinated by the EUROCONTROL Innovation Hub, and has now been extended by the addition of UAM expertise. It now includes partners from the leading innovative research arms of the ATM, UAS and UAM industries. The project is a part of the European Union/SESAR Joint Undertaking Horizon 2020 program.

 

2023 – Proposed Environmental Protection Technical Specifications for VTOL-capable aircraft powered by tilting rotors

2024 – EASA publishes innovative air mobility proposals for public comment

2024 – EASA publishes Easy Access Rules for Unmanned Aircraft Systems — Revision from April 2024

2024 – EASA launches second release of Innovative Air Mobility Hub

2024 – Royal Aeronautical Society – SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ADVANCED AIR MOBILITY SAFETY

 

AI Roadmap

The EASA Artificial Intelligence Roadmap 2.0 updated June 2024 outlines the Agency’s vision for the safety and ethical considerations of AI in aviation. It provides a comprehensive action plan for the EASA AI Programme and sets the pace for conceptual guidance deliverables and anticipated rulemaking activities. Moreover, it serves as a basis for discussions with all of the Agency’s stakeholders.

2023 – EASA Artificial Intelligence Roadmap 2.0 published

In May 2023, EASA announced the release of its AI Roadmap 2.0, which aims at taking the human-centric approach to the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in aviation one step further. The updated roadmap expands upon the initial proposal that was published in February 2020, drawing upon the experience gained from concrete AI use cases involving stakeholders from the aviation industry, academia, and research centers. The document provides a comprehensive plan for the safe and trustworthy integration of AI in aviation, with a focus on safety, security, AI assurance, human-factors and ethical considerations. The development of the EASA AI Roadmap is part of the Agency’s ongoing efforts to promote the safe integration of new and emerging technologies in aviation.

2024 – What the new EU Artificial Intelligence Act means for drones, UTM and eVTOLs

 

EUROCONTROL

EUROCONTROL, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, is an international organization working to achieve safe and seamless air traffic management across Europe. Founded in 1963, EUROCONTROL, as of 2023, has 41 member states. For ease throughout this book, I have indicated below the country’s name whether or not it is a member state of EUROCONTROL.

JARUS

Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) is a group of experts from NAAs/CAAs and regional aviation safety organizations. JARUS recommends technical, safety, and operational requirements to safely integrate UAS into aviation. JARUS provides guidance material to facilitate each authority to write their own requirements and avoid duplicated efforts. As of 2023, JARUS has 65 member organizations, 63 countries, as well as EASA and EUROCONTROL. In this book, I have indicated below the country’s name whether or not it is a member of JARUS.

Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR)

No discussion of global airspace would be complete without mention of Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR).

 

The SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking is an institutionalized European partnership between private and public sector partners set up to accelerate through research and innovation the delivery of the Digital European Sky. To do so, it is harnessing, developing, and accelerating the take-up of the most cutting-edge technological solutions to manage conventional aircraft, drones, air taxis, and vehicles flying at higher altitudes.

Delivering the Digital European Sky describes U-space in more detail. U-space is a digitally native traffic management system that will ensure the safe and secure integration of drones on the airspace especially in urban areas, considering new and existing air vehicles and autonomous operations. Demonstrating the everyday benefits of U-Space is a great read!

Furthermore, in October 2022, SESAR-JU shared AI in Air Traffic Management to bring intelligent and trustworthy automation to Europe’s aviation sector.

 

 

 

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Drones Across the World Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Nilsson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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