Italy: Certification Issues On UAVs: The Communication From The European Commission And The Italian Case


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones and also referred to as remotely piloted aircrafts (RPAs), are increasingly taking up global airspace, a trend that is expected to increase exponentially in the following years. Therefore, opening the European market for UAVs, i.e. authorizing and regulating the civilian use of drones, is an important step towards the aviation market of the future. However, the European regulatory framework on the matter, while other global such as the US are taking the lead, building on expertise in the field of large military RPAS. Since the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) standards require that States authorize UAVs in order for them to be able to fly, certification is a necessary preliminary step that should be looked at in order to allow the European aviation industry to be competitive at global level.

The Communication from the European Commission

The European Union is seeking to establish more comprehensive rules for the integration of drones into its airspace. On April 8th 2014, the Commission issued a Communication to the Parliament and the Council, under the title "A new era for aviation. Opening the aviation market to the civil use of remotely piloted aircraft systems in a safe and sustainable manner". This document set out the Commission's guidelines on how drone operations should be addressed within the framework of European policy. The main goals of legislative action on the matter were said to be to enable the progressive development of the commercial drones market while safeguarding the public interest.

In fact, the Communication responded to the call of the European manufacturing and service industry to remove barriers to the introduction of RPAs in the European single market. This technology is ready to make the shift from being purely military equipment to becoming a reliable new technology for civil use, the Commission rightly claims. In order to their full potential, drones should be able to fly like 'normal' air traffic and be integrated among 'normally piloted' aircraft in non-segregated airspace, i.e. airspace open to all civil air transport.

Certification would not only provide the rules to manufacture the aircraft, but also, even more importantly, gradually allow operations, so that industry can gain valuable practical expertise and progressively develop. The creation of such rules to allow civil UAV operations has to be combined with guarantee of the required high levels of safety, security and privacy, which are a precondition for public acceptance of drones.

The Commission points out that current expansion of the RPAS market is inhibited by the absence of an adequate regulatory framework in most Member States regarding certification and the need to obtain individual authorization from each Member State where manufacturers would like to sell or where providers would like to operate. National authorizations do not benefit from mutual recognition and do not allow for European wide activities, either to produce or to operate RPAS. A number of Member States have started developing national rules to facilitate certification, but in the absence of a system of mutual recognition and, most importantly, European standards, to be developed by the European Air Safety Authority (EASA), a true European Market will not emerge, hampering drastically the development of this sector.

Consequently, the Communication states that the EU must put an enabling regulatory structure to which the major players at European and national levels can contribute. Regulatory measures need to be introduced step by step, starting from certification as a regulatory precondition, so that more complex RPAS operations are progressively permitted. The Commission urges Member States to develop a common, comprehensive plan to ensure UAVs become a common part of air traffic by 2016.

The Italian Case

As mentioned above, following an initial phase of exclusive military use, permission for public and commercial uses of UAVs ha already been given by local regulators under certain restrictions in order to respond to market demand. In this regard, it can be useful to analyse the Italian case. Italy has been one of the first authorities to provide for a regulation on drones, including commercial use thereof.

In 2004, a statute first authorised the use of RPAS by the national military for operational and training purposes, within limited airspace and under further limitations to be specified for each operation. However, crisis and war-related operations were exempted from those restrictions. The statute itself acknowledged its provisional nature and the need for a general regulation o the use of unmanned aircrafts in Italian airspace.1

In 2006, two other relevant dispositions were promulgated: an amending statute to the Navigation Code, which introduced UAV into the definition of aircraft,2 and a decree issued by the Ministry of Defence later that year, which specified the characteristics of UAVs and entrusted DGAA (Directorate General for Aeronautical Armament) with the task of certifying said aircrafts.3 At this point, the legislative framework that enabled the Italian military to operate drones was completed for the first time.

Thus, RPAS were first certified in Italy for military purposes, after a complex process, to the lack of precedent in the sector. The first RPAS certified by the Italian military were "Predator" aircrafts, acquired from the Californian manufacturer General Atomics. This fleet has been used by the Italian armed forces in different operations and has been upgraded with other RPAS over the last few years.

On the other hand, in the last few years the Italian Ministry of Defence has granted temporal authorization, under strict limitations, to the operation of Predator aircrafts by the American forces from the Italian airbase "Sigonella", in Sicily. The basis for this authorization can be found in the bilateral agreements in force between the parties and the relevant communications from the Italian authorities. The authorization is further subject to a series of conditions: notification to the Italian authorities, coordination with Italian operations, respect of local operational procedure, etc. Recently, Sigonella has also become the operational base for several RPAS of the type "Global Hawk" acquired by NATO. The use of these Global Hawk and, when necessary, of the Predator is regulated by the national dispositions on RPAS and the technical agreements between ENAC (National Authority for Civil Aviation) and the Italian Aeronautical Military. In these documents, ENAC acknowledges that DGAA has certified the aircrafts of the American Aeronautical Military (both the Predator and the Global Hawk) as providing the security level required by national law.4

As for commercial operation, ENAC is the competent body for certification, according to the amendment to the Navigation Code mentioned above. In 2013, ENAC published a regulation setting out the conditions under which unmanned aircraft systems falling under its jurisdiction can be operated for commercial purposes.5 Said measure, which entered into force in April 2014, provides two different levels of certification. For low risk operations, light drones may be operated based on self-certification; while certain high-risk uses of light drones, as well as any use of heavy drones, require formal certification issued by ENAC. The risk is measured in accordance with the type of airspace where operations take place, in terms of vicinity to populated areas or to the presence of potential obstacles.


It can be inferred from this case study that at least some Member States are overhauling the certification regime of ad hoc administrative authorizations for military use of UAVs and gradually extending certification of drone operations to the civilian sector. The EU RPAS market needs to be unlocked with a combination of new and existing regulatory action at the national European levels dealing with all relevant issues, starting from certification and moving along to the insertion of safety, security, privacy and data protection requirements within existing EU rules in these areas. All this must be done in order to ensure the progressive integration of UAV into civil aviation from 2016 onwards, as required by the European Commission.


1 Statute of 14th July 2004, n. 178 "Disposizioni in materia di aeromobili a pilotaggio remoto delle Forze armate" (Regulation on Remotely Piloted Aircrafts of the Armed Forces).

2 Legislative Decree of 15th March 2006, n.151, "Disposizioni correttive ed integrative al decreto legislativo 9 maggio 2005, n. 96, recante la revisione della parte aeronautica del codice della navigazione" (Regulation Amending and Supplementing the Legislative Decree of 9th May 2005, n. 96, for the Revision of the Aeronautical Part of the Navigation Code).

3 Decree of the Ministry of Defence of 23rd June 2006, "Individuazione degli aeromobili militari a pilotaggio remoto (APR), adottato ai sensi del 2° comma dell'articolo 743 del Codice della Navigazione, come sostituito dall'articolo 8 del decreto legislativo 15 marzo 2006, n. 151". (Identification of the Military Remotely Piloted Aircrafts, Adopted pursuant to Article 743.2 of the Navigation Code, as Substituted by Article 8 of the Legislative Decree of 15th March 2006, n. 151).

4 Francesco Tosato, Impiego di velivoli "Global Hawk" presso la base militare di Sigonella (Use of "Global Hawk" Aircrafts at the Sigonella Naval Air Station), In-depth Analysis by Ce.S.I. (Center for International Studies), May 2013.

5 Regulation ENAC of 16th December, "Mezzi Aerei a Pilotaggio Remoto" (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles). A courtesy English translation can be found at:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions