On September 15 the TRAN Committee adopted, as amended, British Conservative Jacqueline Foster’s report on the safe use of remotely piloted aircraft systems in the field of civil aviation. Apart from one vote, the own initiative report was unanimously adopted.
The report on civil drones – the first ever to be adopted in a European Parliament committee – seeks to ensure that any regulation on their use takes a risk-based approach in line with the Riga Declaration and EASA’s Concept of Operations (compromise amendment 7, paragraph 18).
“What we have seen over the last 15 years is a huge growth in this industry,” the rapporteur commented. “Civil drones are being used to check crops in the fields, to look at humanitarian disasters, forest fires and railway lines, in the film industry… The key here is to ensure the safe use of drones. We do not want to tie the hands of regulators and be too prescriptive, but provide a framework for how they can proceed”.
The report is not a political one, the rapporteur stated during the committee debate that preceded the vote. Indeed, there seemed to be no major political disagreements regarding the main elements of the report.
There was a broad consensus, across political groups, regarding the safety aspect of drones and the technical expertise that EASA holds in this field. Committee members also agreed that the report should not be too prescriptive, as technological advancements are constantly changing the sector.
Shadow rapporteurs, French centre-right Renaud Muselier and Polish social-democrat Janusz Władysław Zemke, appreciated the distinction made between recreational and professional use of drones. Paragraph 13, as amended by compromise amendment 4, notes that “air traffic management (ATM) pressures may increase due to the welcome growth of sports and recreational RPAS, which may in some circumstances pose a threat to air traffic safety” and “calls for this factor to be taken into account by the relevant authorities and by future EU rules”.
The rapporteur and Dutch Liberal Matthijs van Miltenburg warmly welcomed the LIBE amendments, many of which were approved by the lead committee. The Parliament should be in favour of drones as long as privacy and data is properly protected, van Miltenburg argued.
The report was also supported by a representative from DG MOVE, who noted a sense of urgency not only from the committee but also from within the Commission and Member States. He spoke in favour of compromise amendment 8 which added a reference to geo-fencing and drone identification, which he believed will help ensure safety and privacy rules.
The Commission also insisted on the complementarity between the roles that JARUS and EASA have to play, and therefore supported compromise amendment 5 which calls for a “clear, harmonised and proportionate European and global regulatory framework”.
The report will be voted on in plenary during the second October session and will feed into the aviation package which the Commission is expected to launch in December this year.