ADW 2024: “Seven EU States potentially non-compliant with U-space regulatory framework”

Jan-Christoph Oetjen, Vice-President of the Transport and Tourism Committee in the European Parliament,  at the Amsterdam Drone Week this week laid out his view of the institutional challenges facing the adoption of U-space throoughout the European Union.

“It concerns me a bit that seven Member States are potentially non-compliant with the U-space regulatory framework,” he said.

“According to EASA,” he said, “two out of (sic) three Member States are currently working on implementing U-space; 11 are preparing; seven are exploring and four are not preparing at all.

“Although adopted in 2021 and fully applicable from 2023, it is still very uncertain how Member States will be able to fully implement U-Space in their national territories and across neighbouring countries. In this particular area, it is key to pay the utmost attention to the accessibility and affordability of U-Space in order to avoid it becoming a disincentive for drone operations across the EU.”

Jan-Christoph Oetjen then outlined some of the obstacles and remedies for widespread U-space implementation in the European Union.

“Nevertheless, for my Member State Germany, I do observe a restrictive approach in legislation to the market. When opening the FlyNex App there are more than 55,000 no fly zones defined, I am not sure if these heavy restrictions are necessary without softening the risk-based approach for the operation of drones.

“Clearly, unjustified they are against innovation and growth and prevent the encouragement of the market. Perhaps the European Commission must increase pressure on them to avoid penalties in the near future.

“On the topic of Common Information Service and U-Space service provider, I am glad that we found a political agreement on the recast of the Single European Sky legislation. I urge the Member States to quickly adopt this agreement. Article 9 establishes clear pricing and data sharing rules that are necessary. Otherwise, if ANSPs act as USSPs there is a risk that a de-facto monopoly will uphold even in U-space. This would go along with higher market prices, lack in competition and business incentives for innovation within USSPs. The scale-up of drone deployments would be limited. It is clear to me that the provision of common information services is a fundamental enabler for the provision of U-space services. Low market access costs will be essential to allow the implementation of U-space and scale-up operations. For instance, I appreciate Switzerland’s attempt in bringing down the costs of U-space services to cents.

“One key target for me is the creation of a common digital platform for the whole of Europe. It should provide all necessary data to conduct drone operations in Europe and to drone operators to comply with the legislation. By following the risk-based approach this requires an assessment of the risk of airborne collisions and a proof of situational awareness. Many professional drone operators are not able to do so due to a lack of data. Procedures and systems that can be applied are rather limited. This creates a natural limit to access airspace. Next to further research and development to make legislation in this regards more effective, one might consider obligations for manned aviation to be visible in all airspaces. It is a matter of fair market access to all users. Especially for operations Beyond the Visual Line of Sight, this will be key, to unlock the full potential of drone operations. It would be a game changer for the integration of U-space into airspace and an additional safety level if manned aviation becomes fully visible for unmanned traffic. “

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