New EU aviation safety rules for safer skies across Europe

By Simon Phippard


On 20 July we reported on final agreement on amendments to the EASA Basic Regulation. The new Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 has now been published in the Official Journal and will come into force on 11th September 2018.

Among other things the updated aviation safety rules aim to ensure the safe use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The new Basic Regulation restates the European Aviation Safety Agency's role generally and expands it in drones and urban air mobility. It gives the agency a coordinating role in cybersecurity in aviation and greater scope in environmental protection, research and development, and international cooperation.

The new rules are designed to ensure a common level of safety across the EU and give operators and manufacturers the predictability to develop products and services. Currently, drones lighter than 150kg fall under the jurisdiction of national authorities, with local manufacturers and operators being subject to different design and safety requirements. Under the new rules, UAS need to be designed and used in a way that they do not put people at risk. Drone operators must know the rules governing their flights and must demonstrate the ability to operate a drone safely, without putting people or other airspace users at risk. Some operators will therefore be required to go through training before they can operate a drone.

Operators of drones above 250g will need to be on national registers and their drones marked for identification. This is intended to allay privacy concerns and to assist in investigation in the event of an incident.

These amendments are intended to create an overall safety aviation regime which is more fit for purpose, more proportionate and – crucially – risk-based. One of the key objectives is to handle better the expected increase in air traffic in the coming decades generally, while accommodating disruptive elements such as drones. UAS are likely to entail far greater numbers of individual flights: according to the Commission, civil drone technology could account for an estimated 10% of the EU aviation market within the next 10 years – about €15 billion per year – and create some 150,000 jobs in the EU by 2050. Drone activity will also higher levels of automation, which poses challenges as well as opportunities for the future world of unified traffic management. The risk-based approach also acknowledges that a lighter touch may be appropriate for leisure and sport aviation than for commercial air transport. Other changes on assessment of risk to flights over conflict zones and access to real time flight recorder data are clearly designed to minimise the recurrence of recent tragedies.

This development comes the day before the UK Government started issuing technical notices for a range of industrial sectors setting out the consequences of a "no deal" Brexit. Those published today do not include aviation or air transport but these are expected in September, at which stage we expect a clear indication of the Government's intentions with regard to continued membership of EASA.

You can view our other recent UAS articles here and here.

Access the full text of the new Regulation here