For our customers, business is global. To manage the life cycle of their sites & structures, they need to be able to operate around the world. Many countries are starting to adopt blanket drone regulations for commercial drones under 55 pounds that closely mimic Part 107 in the United States. This is good news for the industry because it means there will be less of a barrier to entry for becoming a drone operator, therefore enabling clients to scale at a global level. Unified drone regulation also ensures that your type of operation will be allowed, no matter where you are.
Below is a snapshot of the current and near-future state of drone regulations around the world.
Governing Entity: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Today: 14 CFR Part 107, which requires operations below 400 feet, within line of sight, and not over people.
Coming soon: We expect to see some rulemaking on Remote ID, and BVLOS within the year, with potential regulations finalized by next year.
Remote Identification, also known as Remote ID is an effort to identify drone operators by using unique IDs generated either from their control station, or from the drone itself. Remote ID will be required for most operations, but will be especially crucial if operators want to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), above people, or in any other manner currently restricted by Part 107. Remote ID will enable these operations to occur on a routine basis, rather than through the lengthy waiver process. A full report of what a Remote ID requirement could look like can be found here.
Integration Pilot Program (IPP)
This effort, initially proposed by the White House, will utilize industry and local governments to help progress regulations involving more complex drone operations. The FAA awarded 10 applicants to represent the Integration Pilot Program (IPP), each of which were state, local, or tribal entities. Those entities are partnering with industry to assist in the data gathering and research required to support future rulemaking. For a look at the awardees, and a short description of the program, click here. This is a 3 year program, and the results and data gathered from testing will feed into future regulations and rulemaking to support commercial drone operations.
Governing Entity: Transport Canada
Today: Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) requires commercial drone operators to apply for permission to have operations approved. Typically, it has a 90 day turn-around time and is not applicable in all of Canada, and includes many operational restrictions.
At the end of this year, Transport Canada will be releasing new regulations to replace the outdated SFOC process which has become a burdensome process for operators compared to Part 107, and other regulatory frameworks.
The new structure will closely mimic Part 107. For complex operations in urban areas, operators will no longer need an SFOC, and instead, need an operator certificate, and a airworthiness design certificate for the aircraft in use. This will greatly reduce the amount of time needed to ramp up a drone program.
European Union Member States
Governing Entity: European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
Today: Fragmented drone regulation with different regulations in each country.
EASA will be adopting unified drone regulations for all of the EU later this year. The recommendations are still in public comment, but will provide a framework for other countries to adopt blanket commercial drone regulations. EASA is seeking regulation that provides a unified framework, while providing flexibility to member states. Expect the recommendations at the end of 2018.
To help accelerate the efforts of EASA and other regulatory bodies, industry, and government stakeholders are partnering to identify the most common issues, and opportunities around the proliferation of drones. One example of these partnerships occurred during the first annual “Robotic Skies“ workshop in Oxford, UK which covered the role of private industry and public policy in the drone industry. This event featured a number of panels covering a range of topics including: early adoption of UAS technologies, regulations, security, and policy. There were notable speakers from the industry present, as well as former key members at the FAA. The panels addressed the EASA recommendations, as well as many other future concepts which will enable more routine use of drones:
- U-Space – Similar to the FAA’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM) this will also utilize a remote identification requirement which will ID operators when flying in airspace, and in complex manners.
- Operator certification – A knowledge exam that will test the knowledge of drone pilots about airspace, weather, regulations, and safety.
- Self-Regulation – For the industry to move forward, regulators have to move away from zero-tolerance safety policy and instead, move toward self-regulation. We should not be applying the same safety philosophy to 2 pound drones as we do complex manned aircraft. This will be key in enabling more complex operations like BVLOS and operations over people
- BVLOS – Potentially allow for BVLOS without regulation at first and use data obtained from this type of operation to regulate further if needed.
- Data Security – A topic often overlooked by regulatory bodies who are typically more concerned with safety. But data security will be as important, or more important than aviation safety in relation to small unmanned aircraft, especially as initiatives like UTM and Uspace start becoming required.
Asia Pacific (APAC)
Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB)
Today: No license or permits are required if you fly in airspace below 150m below ground level, away from airspace around airports, outside of urban areas, 30 meters away from people and structures, and within line of sight.
Many prefectures have their own rules dictating where you can and cannot fly, including public parks, and large gatherings. For operations that occur in densely populated areas, or within airport boundaries, pilots must apply for manual permission.
In 2018 MLIT plans to pass legislation that will enable BVLOS flights to occur regularly. This type of operation will require that the aircraft has a history of safe flight and can effectively sense and avoid manned aircraft. Also coming in 2018 are new radio communication allowances that will enable the transmission of drone acquired video over longer distances.