Robotics

Reviewed drone regulations for manufacturers

13th February 2020
SGS
Alex Lynn

The European Union (EU) became the first authority in the world to publish comprehensive drone regulations and rules for the safe, secure and sustainable use of drones. Published in June 2019, Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 cover commercial and leisure drones.

New legislation comes at a time when drones are becoming commonplace in our news. Recently a home delivery company was spotted trialing drone deliveries in the UK. At the same time, many stories are not positive. In January 2019, flights at Newark Airport, USA, were disrupted by two drones and in September 2019, protesters used drones to achieve a similar response at Heathrow Airport, UK.

Unfortunately, advances in drone capability have not been matched by similar advances in market regulations. The problem is only going to get worse as drones become more and more a part of everyday life.

Initially drone popularity was associated with play. This is not the case today, where technology has advanced to a point where business use is both practical and financially viable. This is shown by the fact the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted it would take until 2022 for the number of commercial drones to reach 450,000, but that figure has already been exceeded.

Drones are no longer just useful cameras. Today, they are used commercially for mapping, data gathering, tracking criminal suspects and delivery services. This is why Barclays’ analysts expect the commercial drone market to grow from $4bn to $40bn in the next five years.

The growth in the drone market has not always been matched by government legislation but that is beginning to change. The US Department of Justice has recently signaled its security concerns by updating its policies and the UK Civil Aviation Authority has introduced a new register backed by fines of up to £ 1,000.

The European Union (EU) is now the first authority to publish a comprehensive set of rules for ensuring the safe, secure and sustainable use of drones. Published in June 2019, Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 both cover commercial and leisure use. Their aim is to foster innovation and growth in the sector while ensuring safety.

These regulations include technical requirements, such as the capabilities a drone must have to fly safely. New drones must also be individually identifiable, to allow them to be traced by the authorities. From June 2020, operators will need to register their drones with authorities, and Member States will be required to convert existing certificates of remote pilot competency and their UAS operator authorisations or declarations to conform with Regulation (EU) 2019/945 by July 1, 2021.

The introduction of these two regulations puts the EU at the forefront of drone legislation. Manufacturers and suppliers need to be aware, however, that other territories have varying attitudes to drone use. For example, at the other end of the scale, their use is prohibited in Barbados, Brunei, Cuba, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Manufacturers and suppliers must understand the enforced regulations in their target markets.

Part of the difficulty for manufacturers is the disconnect between standards and regulations. For example, currently there is no harmonised standard corresponding to (EU) 2019/945.

Stakeholders should be aware that, if a product is classified as a toy, it must also satisfy Directive 2009/48/EC, the Toy Safety Directive (TSD). Products not classified as toys should comply to the requirements in (EU) 2019/945 and the relevant essential health and safety conditions in Directive 2006/42/EC.

Drones must also comply with: 

  • Electromagnetic Capability (EMC) Directive – 2014/30/EU
  • Radio Equipment Directive (RED) – 2014/53/EU

ISO released a new standard on December 5, 2019 – ISO 21384-3, Unmanned aircraft systems – Part 3: Operational procedures. This is the first of several standards in development that will promote better safety and airworthiness among unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). In the fast-growing international drone market, these ISO standards will provide minimum safety and quality requirements, as well as criteria relating to coordination and organisation in the airspace.

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