The European Committee of the Regions has urged the European Union “to create a clear framework for the drone sector to unlock its full economic potential”.
This would require the involvement of local leaders, addressing regulatory shortcomings, and regular reviews of technological, infrastructural, financing and skills gaps, the CoR argues in an opinion on “a Drone Strategy 2.0” by Władysław Ortyl, President of the Podkarpackie Region, adopted on 10 October.
According to a committee press release:
“The drone market is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, worth EUR28 billion in 2022 and expected to grow by nearly 40% a year, to EUR541 billion by 2030. In Europe, annual growth is expected to be 21.9%. Drones are being used in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, mapping, agriculture, goods delivery, and e-commerce.
The following paragraphs are a reproduction of the CoR press report:
Władysław Ortyl (PL/ECR), President of the Podkarpackie Region, said: “The work on the opinion of the drone strategy 2.0 has focused primarily on defining the role of local governments in building a new drone reality. The approach towards the drone industry adopted by the European Commission is the right one, but close cooperation at European, national and regional levels will be necessary to ensure its sustainable development. With this opinion, I have raised the issues of the validity and complexity of drone regulations, public confidence in drones, the U-Space concept, sustainable development as well as financial support instruments. I believe that my opinion will have a positive impact on building Europe’s overall drone capacity.”
The opinion expands on the recommendations put forward in the European Commission’s communication on A Drone Strategy 2.0, which recognise that sub-national governments have a significant role to play in developing the sector. The CoR calls for regional authorities to be consulted about the standard scenarios for low- and medium-risk operations and for geographical constraints and the social, economic, military and political situation of regions to be taken into account.
Drones can serve local and regional authorities by contributing to sustainable and integrated mobility in cities and regions, reducing pollution and congestion and increasing mobility safety for local communities. The CoR points out that drones have enormous potential to support efforts to limit the climate crisis, for example, through their use in road transport (reducing traffic congestion and emissions), as well as in agriculture, forestry and horticulture (replacing agricultural combustion vehicles, supporting precision farming and thus reducing pesticide use and exhaust emissions). At the same time, local leaders share industry representatives’ concerns about the prospect of an overly expensive drone certification process and the initial cost-effectiveness of U-Space services.
CoR members welcomed the provisions of the provisions of the Drone Strategy 2.0 on U-Space – a set of services and procedures developed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to enable large numbers of drones to operate effectively and safely – and recognised the need to stimulate the development of drone education and training. To that end, it highlights the value of dedicated courses in secondary schools and universities, as well as easily accessible courses for the general public.
Public acceptance is the most frequently raised topic during consultations at various levels. The Communication identifies noise, safety, privacy, environmental issues and security as the principal concerns of European citizens. In addition, Russia’s war against Ukraine and the use of drones for warfare, including Russian attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure, are adversely affecting public confidence in the technology. The opinion therefore proposes that drone services with a strong public interest should be introduced first, for example in the area of medical security, environmental safety and crisis management. Drone applications that are more controversial, such as passenger transport and urban surveillance, should be permitted only later.
Drones are already being used in the Podkarpackie region of Poland. “In the Podkarpackie Region, drones are already a fairly common tool. Starting with the Cluster of Unmanned Systems, which brings together companies from the drone and related sectors, Drone Space Valley – a collection of drone companies that operate in the sector of drone production, drone pilot training, services and a tool using artificial intelligence. In the Podkarpackie region, drones have been used for many years in mountain rescue, medical rescue, and uniformed services’ operations, e.g. for speed measurements. In addition, municipal and city offices use drones for air pollution surveys. Drones are used extensively in agriculture and forestry and, more recently, in the construction industry,“ rapporteur Ortyl said.
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(Image: © European Union / Fred Guerdin)