We are all ONE in the Sky! Under this maxim,16 European Aviation Industry Associations have agreed to work together in support of a harmonized, EU-wide regulatory safety framework for the integration of the latest airspace users – unpiloted aircraft systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones. This initiative materialized in a position paper (pdf) that will be presented to the European Commission later this month.
For IATA and the entire industry, safety is the number one priority, and UAS integration is by definition a high priority. Flying safely and securely in all levels and areas of airspace is part of our mission. True to our belief that together we are stronger, a large list of European associations decided to join forces and enhance the cooperation between the industry, drone manufacturers and governments to reduce the risks of rogue drone operations.
Last year IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac commented, “UAS operations will only grow in scale in Europe and abroad. So it is important that we have a comprehensive approach to UAS integration that is aligned with global recommendations being developed through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). UAS integration into the wider family of airspace users must be safe, efficient and fair. That is at the heart of the “We are ONE in the Sky” initiative.”
Airlines, institutions and individuals are aware of the threat caused by drones. However, this issue is also absolutely key for airports, and not only the ones which made the news recently in Europe such as London Gatwick, London Heathrow, or Frankfurt Airport, which faced the latest drone-related disruption. The question about how to efficiently implement protection against drones impacting safety and operations, is still mostly unanswered. This can be explained in large part by the lack of regulations at both national and European levels.
Main issues the industry is currently focusing and working on:
• The design, development and implementation of an aviation system for all aircraft types which would permit the detection and tracking of drones. Again, safety is and will always be the number one priority for the air transport industry, and the commendable patience of passengers is appreciated while the authorities ensure that there is no threat from drone activity to civil aircraft.
• Proper training, greater education and information campaigns targeted to all kinds of operators. The latter are essential elements required to raise awareness among drone users.
• Risks and dangers associated with unpiloted or remotely controlled aircraft should be treated the same as for manned aircraft. Malicious misuse should not be accepted under any circumstances and must be prosecuted with proportionate punishments by competent authorities. Fully applicable legal action must be taken to deter future incidents of this kind. Enhanced fines and prison sentences for offenders.
• Technological solutions to prevent or neutralize drones entering restricted airspace must be developed.
• The industry will implement measures to deny access of malicious drones in certain areas, such as airport vicinities (at Approach and Departure, but not only), independently of the cooperation of the drone user.
Further safety information can be found on IATA’s 2018 Safety Report published April 2nd, 2019.