European Union: Next Generation Civil Aviation: Unmanned Air Vehicles - Applicable Legislation And Shortcomings

Last Updated: 10 February 2012
Article by Clyde & Co LLP and Peter Macara

Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) are demanding their place in the civil aviation sector. These remote controlled systems are already widely used for military operations and their development for extensive civil applications is promising.

The advantages of increasing the use of UAVs speak for themselves. Among other things, manned aircraft and helicopters are much more expensive to purchase and maintain; these self managing systems, unlike manned aircraft, can fly longer and do not require a fully licensed pilot; non-fixed wing versions can fly at low altitudes; they are ideal for lengthy routine operations. Presently, the commercial exploitation already stretches from unmanned earth observation and natural resources management to law enforcement, only hindered by technological imperfections.

To be able to incorporate this kind of next generation aviation into the existing infrastructure legal clarity will need to be brought to the regulatory side relating to airworthiness, UAV operations and airspace.

Current legal framework

The 1944 Chicago Convention

The opportunity to grow can only be given to this industry if these operations can be performed outside segregated areas both in national and international airspace. Yet presently the lack of appropriate airspace regulations for UAVs is a market restraint. The Chicago Convention – applicable only to civil aircraft and not state aircraft – already explicitly provided in its original version that pilotless aircraft shall not be flown over the territory of a contracting State without special authorization by that State and only under its conditions. These unilateral conditions could pertain to areas such as airworthiness. The Convention is worded in such a way that provisions on nationality, the obligatory display of marks and carriage of documents such as registration and airworthiness certificates are equally applicable to UAVs.

It will be for domestic legislators to draw up specific regulations relating to the awarding of these certificates. Issues concerning the standards used and multilateral recognition of these particular documents will have to be addressed.

EU Regulations 1592/2002 and 216/2008

The objective of Regulation 1592/2002 (the EASA basic Regulation) and later Regulation 216/2008 was to establish and maintain a high uniform level of civil aviation safety in Europe. The basic Regulation applies to the design, production, maintenance and operation of aeronautical products engaged in civil aviation. Annex 2 provides an exclusion both for "unmanned aircraft with an operating mass of less than 150 kg" and for aircraft "designed for research, experimental or scientific purposes, and likely to be produced in very limited numbers." These aircraft do not have to comply with the EASA airworthiness requirements. There is ambiguity in the interpretation whether UAVs in general would fall under this Regulation but it is arguable that since only certain UAVs are exempted all others are included. On this basis, save where otherwise provided, the design and manufacture of the UAVs must be in accordance with the relevant certification specifications similar to manned aircraft and they must be issued with a Certificate of Airworthiness.

EU Regulation 1149/2011

This latest Regulation updates Regulation 2042/2003 relating to the continuing airworthiness of aircraft, aeronautical parts and products and related administrative procedures. In it, a wide definition of aircraft is put forward as constituting any machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air other than reactions of the air against the earth's surface.

These common technical requirements and procedures for ensuring the continuing airworthiness of aircraft and its components apply if the aircraft is either registered or operated in a Member State.

Nevertheless, the same exception for light UAVs below 150 kg applies and they are thus excluded from EASA responsibility. Also, when the products or the personnel are engaged in military or policing services or the initial design was intended for military purposes only the Regulations do not apply. Precisely because military and other governmental UAVs are exempted from the aforementioned formal airworthiness certifications they could be tested and developed so quickly.

The need for differentiation

UAVs, unlike traditional aircraft, should be approached as remote controlled aircraft integrated in a whole system comprising a control station, a communication link, and a launch and recovery element. Consequently, all these elements should be certified too since they are inherently part of the aircraft's operational capacity. The JAA, Eurocontrol and EASA have endorsed this position considering the insufficiency of traditional airworthiness requirements for these systems.

Considerations arise as how to approach the airworthiness certificates in case these individual elements would control multiple vehicles or different types of vehicles. These issues are now addressed by the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) by way of developing standard technical regulations which embrace the whole UAV operational structure (staff, control stations, traffic controllers etc) and by ICAO's Study Group that especially focuses on the present shortcomings of the Standards and Recommended Practices (e.g. Search And Rescue).

It is arguably important for this industry to attain a set of rules for UAVs and their flight safety which are not too different from the existing ones for traditional aircraft. Safety standards and procedures should be apt for UAVs but they should not be unfairly required to comply with industry-specific higher standards. EASA's view seems to go in to same direction (see JAA - Eurocontrol initiative on UAVs: Taskforce Final Report – A concept for European Regulation for Civil Unmanned Air Vehicles, 11 May 2004).

Integration into airspace

Unlike military UAVs, civilian UAVs cannot benefit from segregated military airspace and should make use of common non-segregated airspace. For example, in the UK unmanned aircraft with a mass of more than 7 kg (excluding fuel) must not be flown within controlled airspace, restricted airspace or an Aerodrome Traffic Zone unless permission has been obtained from the relevant air traffic control authority.

With regard to the future, integrating UAVs in greater number into commonly used airspace will involve satisfying some concerns.

In attributing a certain segment of airspace, consideration needs to be given foremost to the categorisation of aircraft in combination with their precise function. It is arguable that categories should not be based on individual characteristics of the vehicle (e.g. equipment) but on parameters such as weight. This would also allow airworthiness requirements to vary depending on the take-off mass of the vehicle, as is the case with traditional aircraft. The combination of both could mean in practice that certain surveillance UAVs which theoretically would qualify to fly in very low airspace could be excluded since their airspeed or weight would be unsuitable.

In addition, efficient airspace management will need to manage not only the flight itself but also the intensity of surrounding traffic. The reserving of airspace segments specifically for UAV traffic may seem an option. However, considering the quantities of traffic at this stage and the applicability of aeronautical requirements that apply to manned aircraft, separate segments seem disproportionate. Nevertheless, the differences in automation, communication and situational awareness might require specific attention. Letting small UAVs operate for example in low uncontrolled airspace, which is unused by general aviation, is no solution either given the lower reaction time in case of signal loss and collision risk. Only the smallest of UAVs with a weight up to a few kilogrammes could be permitted without significant risk. So far, in Europe at any rate, there have been no reported cases of collisions involving UAVs.

Conclusion

It is important for this emerging sector that the present lack of clarity with respect to airworthiness, pilot certification and airspace use is dealt with. A set of requirements should be provided which can be quickly integrated into the existing framework and which approaches pilotless aircraft in a comprehensive system. The adaptation of the existing JARs and ICAO Annexes to include UAVs would be a first step in ensuring a global harmonisation. The different functions and types of UAVs and their interaction with the existing aviation infrastructure can only be addressed by a multi-layered solution that takes into account the relevant considerations.

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 Mondaq.com.

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

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
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
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (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 www.mondaq.com

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 Mondaq.com’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.

Disclaimer

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.

Registration

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 by clicking here .

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 unsubscribe@mondaq.com 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.

Cookies

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.

Links

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.

Mail-A-Friend

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.

Security

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 webmaster@mondaq.com.

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 EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

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 enquiries@mondaq.com.

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