The European Commission has recently taken the lead regarding a project for the integration of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), the new name used by ICAO for UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle), into common airspace by 2016. In July 2012, the European Commission formed the European RPAS Steering Group (ERSG), which has recently designed the roadmap to reach the target of such integration. The Commission's project mainly concerns RPA's over 150 kg; in keeping with Regulation 216/2008/EC, the European Air Safety Agency (EASA) is responsible for certification and licensing of these aircraft, while the National Aviation Authorities (NAA) of Member States are responsible for the regulation of RPA's below 150 kg. Some EU MS's have already issued norms (like the UK with CAP 722) to provide a regulatory framework for experimental or commercial activities by public or private entities.

Last December, the Italian NAA (ENAC)published a Proposal for a Regulation on Remotely Piloted Air Vehicles (Mezzi Aerei a Pilotaggio Remoto), asking the interested stakeholders to provide comments and suggestions by the 24 March 2013. This proposal has been established in accordance with Article 743 of the Italian Navigation Code, which states that Remotely Piloted Aircraft are aircraft as so defined by special laws or by ENAC and, for the military RPAS, is as defined by the Ministry of Defence.

The proposed regulation provides separate rules for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (Sistemi Aeromobili a Pilotaggio Remoto – SAPR) and Recreation Model Aircraft (Aeromodelli), establishing for each category the safety rules for flight operations.

Sections II and III of the proposed regulation define the pre-requisites for obtaining the relevant authorisation to operate in airspace, the approved operations, the airworthiness certificate, when applicable, and the terms for special operations. Such pre-requisites are separately indicated for RPA's with aMTOM below 20 kg and for RPA'switha MTOM over 20 kg up to 150 kg.

RPA with a MTOM below 20 kg.

RPA's below 20 Kg do not need an airworthiness certificate and operations are permitted by an ENAC authorisation released on an operator's request. Such authorisation can be granted for i) special operations in segregated and non-controlled airspace or for ii) experimental activity in segregated airspace. These operations are permitted in Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) only, at the maximum altitude of 70 metres, at a minimum distance of 8 km from an airport, far from congested areas, in daylight and VFR/VMCconditions.

Special operations can be authorised only after a positive completion of experimental activities. The operator must declare that such special operations can be conducted safely and that an adequate insurance policy has been stipulated. The authorisation has a validity of 12 months.

RPAS with a MTOM over 20 kg.

RPAswith a MTOM over 20 kg have to be registered in a special RPA register held by ENAC and identified by a call sign whose initial letter is "I" for Italy, as is the case for conventional aircraft. The same call sign has to be in the RPA ground station. For these aircraft an airworthiness certificate is required as per conventional aircraft in the form of permit to fly, except in the case of a certifiedRPA System, where an airworthiness certificate can be issued.

For RPA mass-production a restricted certificate is required, stating compliance with the terms established by ENAC and considering the standards, certification specifications and policies relating to conventional aircraft. The certificate includes the designtype and the flight manual. It is possible to release a restricted airworthiness certificateto obtain RPAS compliancy.

For non-mass production RPA's,a certificate can be granted for experimental activities or for special operations. Flying permits for special operations are released only when ENAC has ascertained that documents presented by the operator on the project criteria, the system configuration and a risk assessment document,ensure safe flight operations. Also in this case the flying permit has a validity of 12 months.

For experimental activity, RPAs over 20 kg have to comply with stricter rules which include: the presentation of detailed information on the project, the capability of the pilot to stay in control of the flight in normal or emergency conditions and keep it within the segregated assigned area, far from populated areas.

The Pilot in Command is responsible for flight operations and must hold a private pilot licence and ENAC authorisation, issued on the basis of his qualifications and, if necessary, flight test results.

The RPAS has to comply with the rules of the air and be equipped with the necessary instruments to perform the authorised activity. An insurance certificate is also required.

For RPA with an MTOM over 20 kg, operations in VLOS up to 150 metres are permitted, provided that they comply with the rules of the air applicable to the airspace in question and with similar limitations as established for RPA with an MTOM below 20 kg.

Operations innon-segregated airspace are permitted provided that the RPAs comply with the rules of the air and air traffic control, as is the case for conventional aircraft. These operations are permitted only in VLOS below 150 metres.

Operations in segregated airspace can be authorised by ENAC when appropriate, provided that they are conducted in accordance with the rules of the air of the airspace in question.

Section IV of the proposed regulation establishes the equipment required for each authorised operation, while Section V containsthe terms of commercial and non-commercial activities that can be performed by RPA's with an MTOM over 20 kg.

Recreation model aircraft

Section VI of the document defines the terms for safely flying model aircraft up to 20 kg or over 20 kg, always in daylight at a maximum altitude of 150 metres.

The ENAC regulation presentation document points out that for the moment risk assessment has been based on the weight of the RPA only, and consequently the provisions are established using this parameter so as to mitigate the risk of damage to third parties.

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.