Today, the European Commission adopted version 2.0 of the European Drone Strategy, which outlines a vision for the continued growth of the European drone sector. It builds on the world’s most advanced safety framework for operating and establishing the technical standards for drones, which is the EU’s. The new strategy outlines how Europe may pursue large-scale commercial drone operations while also creating new opportunities for the sector.

Due to the EU’s thorough regulatory framework, drones have flown securely in Europe’s skies for hundreds of thousands of hours, surveying infrastructure, monitoring oil spills, and collecting soil samples, among other tasks. Additionally, projects involving the use of drones for medical air deliveries and the delivery of medical samples between healthcare services are advancing well. The deployment of ‘U-space’ in January 2023, a European system that manages drone traffic safely and is unique in the world, will pave the way for increased operations.

Before moving further with these cutting-edge technology, the Commission needs to guarantee that drones have societal backing. To address concerns regarding noise, safety, and privacy, the Strategy asks for national, regional, and local governments to ensure that drone services meet the requirements of citizens.

The Strategy envisages the incorporation of the following drone services into European life by 2030:

  1. Emergency services, mapping, imaging, inspection, and monitoring within the appropriate legal frameworks, as well as the urgent delivery of small packages, such as biological samples or pharmaceuticals, by civil drones.
  2. Innovative Air Mobility services, such as air taxis, that provide regular passenger transportation services, initially with a pilot on board, but with the ultimate goal of entirely automating operations.

The identification of crucial technology building blocks, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, and EU space services and mobile telecoms, is required to unlock the potential of the EU drone market and services. This will assist the EU in developing a creative and competitive drone industry, thereby reducing its strategic reliance.

Additionally, the Strategy outlines areas for synergies between civil and military drones, as well as for enhanced counter-drone capabilities and system resilience.

19 activities for the drone market of tomorrow
The Commission will initiate work on the Strategy’s 19 operational, technical, and financial flagship initiatives in order to create the appropriate regulatory and commercial framework for the drone airspace and market of the future:

  1. Adopting common airworthiness regulations and new pilot training requirements for remote and eVTOL (manned electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing) aircraft.
  2. Funding the development of an online platform to aid local stakeholders and the aviation industry in adopting sustainable Innovative Air Mobility.
  3. Developing a Strategic Drone Technology Roadmap to identify research and innovation priorities in order to eliminate existing strategic dependencies and prevent the emergence of new ones.
  4. Defining requirements for a voluntary drone certification for cybersecurity.

This study will pave the road for large-scale commercial operations and ensure that Europe benefits from synergies between the civil, military, and security applications of drones and related technology, including counter-drone solutions.

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash