On 6th July 2012 in Brussels, the European Commission set up the European RPAS Steering Group (ERSG) formed by representatives of the major European Institutions (EASA, SESAR, Eurocontrol, ESA, EDA, EUROCAE, JARUS) and industry. The European Commission has adopted the acronym RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) in lieu of UAVs (Unmanned Air Vehicles) in accordance with ICAO Circular 328 of 2011.
The objective of the Steering Group is to foster the development of the civil RPAS by planning and coordinating all the activities necessary to achieve the safe insertion of RPAS into the European Air Traffic by 2016.
Probably, the decision of the European Commission represents a reaction to the US Act of January 2012, which allocates three billion dollars for the same objective of the ERSG. In practice, the European Commission is trying to speed up the process of having RPAS flying in the common airspace by 2016 before the United States in order to fix the world international standards and procedures. This objective is strongly supported by the European Industry (EADS, BAE System, Dassault, Finmeccanica, Thalès, Indra), which have produced till now excellent prototypes but needs to open the market of RPAS for civil use through their insertion in the common airspace. Contrary to United States, the European Commission hasn’t allocated any money in the ERSG project.
Also for RPAS the key element is safety. In the past, funds have been destined to R&D of anti-collision systems (Detect & Avoid) and telecommunications, which represent the technology capable to assure the same safety standards of manned aircraft. Certification and complementary measures (liability, privacy, data protection and societal impact) are the other matters that ERSG will study to produce for the European Commission a series of deliverables containing the actions to be taken from now to 2016.
In this context, on 2nd August 2012 the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) has issued a communication (Nota Informativa) for the release of a “Permit to fly” for experimental activity of RPAS.
To obtain the release of the “Permit to fly”, the operator must supply ENAC for a series of information regarding: its organisation, the description of RPA in all its parts, operating system and payload (sensors) installed, safety analysis, ground station configuration, data-link. Such data will allow ENAC to understand any details of the project to release the “Permit to fly” for experimental activity in segregated areas, over non-populated areas, in Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS).
This communication is addressed especially to the producers of small RPAS below 150 kg. whose marked has already developed being subject to the provisions established by the National Aviation Authorities and not to EASA as established by the EU regulations.
The initiative of the Italian CAA seems in line with the objective of the European Commission to speed up the insertion of RPAS into the common airspace, especially the small RPAS. Other countries, like the UK, have since a few years issued similar provisions to facilitate the use of RPAS for civil use, in particular for civil protection, fire fighting, coastal surveillance, road traffic monitoring and criminal prevention.
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