Tuesday

23rd Jul 2019

EU promises new dawn for drone makers

  • Drones to be fitted with ID tags to help prevent snooping (Photo: ninfaj)

The EU Commission has promised to help European drone makers conquer world markets, as part of wider efforts to export EU aviation rules.

Violeta Bulc, the transport commissioner, said in Brussels on Monday (7 December) upcoming drone laws will create “a European-based regulatory framework” which will “create the conditions” for EU-based commercial producers to “stay the leader, globally.”

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

She said the laws, to be drawn up by Easa, the EU flight safety agency, based in Cologne, Germany, will “strike a balance between safety, security, legal certainty, privacy and data protection requirements.”

“It will really enable the drone indsutry in Europe to take off,” she said.

The pledge, part of a broader commission “aviation package”, is short on details for the time being. But documents published Monday indicate the EU agency is to draft joint standards on design, production, and certification, while member states will be free to decide where and when they can fly.

With ever-smaller and cheaper drones capable of taking photos or livestreaming audiovisual content, the commission said there’ll be a “safety requirement to equip the unmanned aircraft with an identification device, like an electronic identification chip, also help detecting persons who did not respect privacy or data protection rules.”

It said air safety bodies shouldn’t have to invoke full accident-report protocols in the event of small drone-to-drone collisions.

The US and Israel dominate world markets of military drones. The US Federal Aviation Administration has also promised to finalise rules for drone use in civilian airspace by 2016.

But small, niche EU firms are growing quickly.

A recent profile of the sector by The Economist, a British weekly, noted, for instance, that Delair-Tech, a French firm which employs 50 people, has seen sales grow by 200 percent a year for the past four years. Its kit is used by French railway firm SNCF to check its lines and by cognac producer Remy Martin to see which parts of its vineyards need extra water.

OmniworkX, a Dutch firm, which is expanding to the UK, Germany, and Malaysia, sells drones to steel-makers to look for cracks in giant ovens and to oil firms to check tops of rigs.

“Over 50 percent of the world’s drone activity, its new systems, is happening in Europe,” Andrew Charlton, of the Small UAV Coalition, said.

Bilateral accords

Bulc on Monday also urged EU states to let the Commission negotiate new aviation accords with a list of countries.

It named Armenia, China, Japan, Mexico, and Turkey, as well as the 11 south-east Asian states in the Asean club, and the six Arab states in the GCC club.

The agreements, broadly speaking, are designed to export EU aviation rules in order to give European carrirers a competitve advantage. But they also have nation-specific hooks.

The deals with Armenia and Turkey would have political symbolism in terms of EU integration. The China deal could help the EU address CO2 concerns.

The deals with Turkey, which is pumping state aid into building the world’s biggest airport, in Istanbul, and with Gulf states, accused of using oil money to help national airlines expand, could address competition concerns without launching EU anti-trust cases.

The bilateral accords could also see the EU lift its ban on foreign firms owning more than 49 percent of EU-based airlines, if third countries agree to “reciprocity” for European investors.

Security burden

Bulc said the EU also wants to clinch more “one-stop” security pacts, which allow transit passengers to avoid extra security checks if they’ve already been screened by a state deemed up-to-scratch on safety.

The EU has a security pact in place with the US and is finalising ones with Canada and Montenegro in February.

Other elements in Monday’s package include: using more modern software for air-traffic control and enforcing shorter and more direct flight paths.

The commission noted the software improvement alone could create an extra 300,000 jobs. It is on course for 1.4 million flights a year by 2035, 50 percent more than in 2012.

But what the commission called “fragmentation” of European airspace costs “at least” €5 billion a year and up to 50 million tonnes in CO2. Capacity constraints at airports could also cost up to 818,000 jobs by 2035.

Green group

Major airlines and trade associations broadly welcomed the commission strategy Monday, pending more details.

But for its part, the Green group in the EU Parliament says it focused exclusively on "promoting growth in the aviation sector," while ignoring issues such as "climate change impact, pollution, nuisance and health problems."

"It is ... both ironic and cynical that the commission is presenting these proposals during the COP21 UN climate talks in Paris," it said.

EU steps up funding for drone research

EU defence firms have received hundreds of millions in EU research grants for work on drones, despite rules against funding of military projects.

'Killer robots' are not about Terminator

A European signatory of an open letter about autonomous weapons says the imagery of fictional killer robots is distracting from a seriously dangerous issue.

EU hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

News in Brief

  1. UK foreign office minister quits ahead of Johnson as PM
  2. AKK to boost Bundeswehr budget to Nato target
  3. Police arrest 25 after Polish LGBT-march attack
  4. Ukrainian president's party tops parliament election
  5. EU interior ministers to meet in Paris on migration
  6. Schinas nominated as Greek commissioner
  7. Sea-Watch captain hopes for change in EU migrant rules
  8. Russia willing to join EU payment scheme on Iran deal

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. As Johnson set to become PM, ministers pledge to resign
  2. Poland's PiS prepares 'failsafe' for October election
  3. Abortion Wars
  4. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  5. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  6. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  7. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  8. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us