Up until recently, the use of drones was highly unregulated and carried a significant risk.
A new framework now makes it possible to use them safely and efficiently.
The emergence of drones has given way to a high number of business opportunities all over Europe, whether in the control of infrastructure, precision agriculture or the transportation of goods and e-commerce, just to name a few. Thus far, the EU still lacked a clear framework that would have made it possible to create a European market for drone services and aircraft, exploiting the potential for job creation and growth in this new sector of the economy. Drone services could change our lives in many ways and thus, there was an increasing pressure to develop a livable and modern system that meets both market needs and official regulations.
How does U-space make a difference?
The U-Space package, adopted by the European Commission on 22 April 2021, consists of regulations which determine the conditions necessary for both drones and manned aircraft to operate safely.
Who do the new regulations benefit? Basically, everyone concerned. Drone users can now enjoy fair, flexible and open access to the airspace, which in turn can open up a market of drone services. On the other hand, regulatory authorities benefit by maintaining control over the airspace, protecting the safety and security of critical areas and enforcing the registration and identification of drones.
Citizens are going to be able to enjoy new and innovative drone services, all while the environment remains protected from noise or visual pollution. Finally, the regulation enables the development of new business models, facilitating market growth and supporting a move towards digitalization and automatization.
This new set of services relies on procedures designed to provide safe and efficient access to airspace for a large number of drones. The goal is to establish a support system to assist the efficient conduct of drone flight operations and enable smooth operation, whether in a rural, urban or suburban environment.
Thus, U-space helps to prevent collisions and mitigates the risks of drone traffic on the ground, aiming to coordinate the management of drone activities. The new regulations also allow more complex operations and flying longer distance than before, particularly in congested, low-level airspace and when out of sight.
Make no mistake: while this regulatory package already entered into force in April 2021, it will only become applicable as of 26 January 2023. It is also part of a bigger scheme since U-space forms part of the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy that defines how the EU transport system can achieve its green and digital transformation and become more resilient to future crises.