European rules on drones should ensure drone operations across Europe are safe and secure, European citizens’ privacy are safety are respected and drones are able to circulate freely, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said June 11 as the new rules were published.

“Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring safe, secure and sustainable operations of drones both for commercial and leisure activities. Common rules will help foster investment, innovation and growth in this promising sector,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said.

The new common rules will help drone operators, whether professional or recreational, to have a clear understanding of what is allowed or not and enable them to operate across borders as once a drone operator has authorization in its state of registration it can circulate freely across the EU.

“This means that they can operate their drones seamlessly when traveling across the EU or when developing a business involving drones around Europe,” EASA said.

The new rules also define the capabilities a drone must have to be flown safely, including being individually identifiable, allowing for authorities to trace a drone if necessary.

That part of the new rules aims to help prevent a repeat of incidents such as the disruption caused late last year when drone sightings led to the closure of Gatwick Airport for around 36 hours and a shorter suspension of Heathrow flights in early 2019 following drone sightings.

The new rules will replace existing national rules in EU Member States. While the EU regulation will enter into force in the next 20 days, it will not be applicable for a year, giving Member States and operators time to prepare and implement it.

As of June 2020, drone operators will need to register in the Member State where they are resident or have their main place of business. 

EASA said it would soon publish guidance material to help drone operators to comply with the rules and towards the end of the year it would make a proposal to the European Commission for U-space service regulation to enable complex drone operations with a high degree of automation.

Helen Massy-Beresford,