Before I start with the law here is a video from the Birmingham, UK St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was taken by Didier Soulier with a drone. He is an experienced professional with experience in filming parades. I chose not to add one from the U.S because they appeared to be amateur productions and not approved by the FAA. Hopefully next year we’ll have a major parade filmed in the U.S. by an experienced drone pilot with approval from the FAA. I have also included a non-UAS picture in the spirit of Australia’s drone progress (see New Year’s Fireworks, military collaboration, Koalas, and entrepreneurs). I didn’t know until last week that Australia has a large Irish population and their St. Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has proposed a new regulatory approach for UAS (called RPAS, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, in the EU) in the European Union. It is called “Concept of Operations,” and is supposed to be a flexible approach – the requirements will increase proportionally with the risk. They considered comments from users and manufacturers as they developed standards that cover safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance and liability. This is a high-level framework, not a detailed regulation.
EASA proposes three categories of operation: Open, Specific and Certified. Open would not require operation as long as the aircraft stays within specified limits – remain under 150 m, stay within visual line of sight, and away from certain areas. The Specific category will require authorization and limitations crafted to the operation – the operator would be required to complete a risk assessment and receive approval from the relevant National Aviation Authority. Certified operation would be for the highest risk activities – specifically for aircraft over 150 kg.
The EASA is hoping to increase communication between member states over the course of the year in order to help harmonize regulations throughout the EU in line with the Concept of Operations. The EU’s number of registered drone operators far surpasses the U.S., as Bloomberg illustrates (see below), with France leading the pack. We’ll see if the CoO comes to fruition and how it effects usage across the E.U.
Back in the United States, Massachusetts has proposed a bill regarding UAS directed primarily at government use. It limits the use of UAS by law enforcement to situations in which a warrant has been issued and restricts the ability to collect various forms of personal data. Private parties would be required to comply with FAA regulations and could not arm their UAS. It was filed in January 2015, but appears to be a new attempt at a bill that died in a previous session (the date on page 6 is 2013).
This is in addition to bills introduced in neighboring Rhode Island. The first proposed bill would give the state exclusive ability to regulate UAS. The FAA has authority to regulate most aspects of UAS, but the state does have limited ability to legislate (this is a discussion for another day). This bill would be aimed solely at restricting municipalities from passing their own ordinances. The second, more ambitious bill would do the same, and further require registration of all UAS used in the state. The bill would also restrict UAS from certain sensitive areas and prohibit their use to look inside of private buildings.