EASA ‘Prototype’ Commission Regulation on Unmanned Aircraft Operations

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have noticed the headlines about EASA’s intentions to regulate the use of drones, and the subsequent petitions, video responses and open letters that warn us of the consequences of inaction, which have ranged from “end of the road for our sport/hobby” to “death of the UK and European drone industry”!

The BFPVRA has been liaising with the BMFA on this, who has in turn been working with the CAA and EAS since before the prototype regulations were proposed in August. We suggested that we put out an official announcement to clarify what the prototype rules mean to us as modellers, what has been done to address our concerns (especially around the contentious Article 15) and what the official recommendation to our members should be.

In summary:

  • Dave Phipps (BMFA Chief Executive) has been working on this for the past year and is continuing to do so, but if you want to contribute then please email UASPrototypeRule@easa.europa.eu directly with your concerns.
  • Writing to MPs and MEPs is somewhat premature at this stage (unless they sit on the TRAN committee, and those who do have already got the message). Likewise with the various petitions.
  • Raising awareness of the issue is important, but please stay civil and avoid inflammatory language as we want to be taken seriously!

The following is the email response that Dave has been sending out to members who have asked similar questions about the situation:

Through Europe Air Sports, we have been working on this for the last year. In actual fact, for the last few months it has been the main focus of my work!

EASA’s intention was to implement rules which would have minimal impact on model flying and they believed that they had achieved this through the provisions in Article 15. However, I disagreed with them. The EASA rulemaking team were taken aback by my response and invited me (along with the FAI) to meet with them a little over a week ago. They acknowledge that they have ‘not got it right’ for model flyers and that there remains a lot of work to do. They have also invited us to work with them directly and suggest revisions which would make the proposals workable which I’m working on at present.

Feel free to respond directly to their comment email address, but they have had a much bigger response than they anticipated (particularly from the UK) and they’ve got the message. Comments to EASA are required by the 15th October.

In parallel (again through Europe Air Sport) I have written some proposed amendments to EASA’s Basic Regulation which have been tabled by a German MEP. The proposals would introduce definitions for model flying and effectively place us in the same Annex as amateur built aircraft (and therefore under national control and free from EASA regulation). The amendments were due to be heard on the 10/11 October but have now been deferred until 9/10 November. Europe Air Sports has a professional lobbyist in the European Parliament who is very active on our behalf directly lobbying the relevant MEP’s. I am also working in collaboration with colleagues from other Associations throughout Europe to ensure that they lobby their own MEP’s directly too. The relevant UK MEP’s appear to support the amendments and one of them (Jacqueline Foster) is a long term supporter whom I’ve worked with previously.

In terms of writing to MP’s & MEP’s as Simon Dale was suggesting, this would be largely wasted endeavour at this stage as the majority of them are not involved. Writing to the specific MEP’s on the European Parliament Transport & Tourism Committee (TRAN) to seek their support for the proposed amendments may be more useful, but we already have a good level of support and there is some concern that if they get a large amount of correspondence then it may be ultimately be counterproductive and cloud the issue at a time when we need to present a very clear message.

EASA are sending out a standard response to comments submitted:

Subject: RE: Flying of Model Aircraft
Thank you for expressing interest in the UAS Prototype Rule.
We had and are having a big debate on model inclusion in this regulation and how to differentiate between a model and a normal drone operator flying for leisure.
We are trying to give as much flexibility as we can and art 15 of the Prototype Rule gives the possibility to the national competent authority to issue an authorisation to model associations identifying deviations from the rule, no further risk assessment is required. In this way we are allowing model clubs to operate as they do today and in reality nothing will change for you and no modification will be required to your aircraft.
We are having discussions with Model associations, including BMFA, FAI and other national clubs. With their help we will improve the text further if needed.

I attended the same meeting with the CAA and DfT last week which Simon Dale refers to in his video and I was asked to brief the meeting on my direct negotiations with EASA. His comment on the ‘Dear faceless bureaucrat’ email sent to EASA was something I related to the meeting (it was actually ‘Dear faceless civil servant) and was not intended for wider broadcast. We are working closely with the DfT and CAA who are supportive (the CAA provided some input into the presentation I gave to EASA).

Ultimately, the Prototype Rules are just that. There are a number of stages which they would have to pass through to come into force and dependent upon how negotiations progress, then we may seek to mobilise all model flyers throughout Europe to make a mass response. However, this is something I would like to keep the ‘powder dry on’ at this stage.

As you can see from the above, we are not only active on this front but we are leading it (through Europe Air Sports) on behalf of model flyers throughout Europe. There is a lot more going on at present in addition to that outlined above, some of which is quite sensitive and as such I cannot report on just yet.

I hope this helps and gives you some reassurance?

Regards

Dave

Dave Phipps
Chief Executive
(and Technical Officer to Europe Air Sports)

As you can see, Dave has been very busy on this and as Technical Officer to EAS, he is able to negotiate directly with EASA on behalf of all of the UK modelling associations. His involvement (and that of several other very influential people) has been instrumental in presenting our point of view to EASA, who has already acknowledged that there is a lot of work to do before they get it right for model flyers.

BFPVRA will continue to work closely with BMFA to ensure the best outcome for our sport, but right now the best course of action may be just to sit tight and let the process play out. It won’t hurt to get the message out to as many flyers as possible but if we overwhelm the EASA and parliament members with irrelevant hyperbole then we risk clouding the issue, which would be counterproductive.

We will post an update when we have more news to report.

Update (11-10-2016 @ 13:10): FAI and EAS have released an update on their latest position regarding these prototype rules, corroborating the key points in our announcement made earlier today.