EASA introduces a new European map for your drone

 EASA introduces a new European map for your drone

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency EASA has updated European regulations for drones, that come into force in 2023. This new standard introduces a new consistent drone map of Europe, which will automatically be loaded into the memory of your drone in the future.

New EASA Guidelines

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published new and amended procedures and guidance to further harmonise and implement the EU drone regulation. 

Following the consultation of NPA 2021-09, EASA analysed and reviewed feedback received from stakeholders and consolidated the results in the newly published ED Decision 2022/002/R.

In particular, the decision addresses the following:

  • Establishment of ‘geographical zones’ identifying EUROCAE ED 269 as the standard for the common unique digital format;
  • Revised forms for the application and issue of operational authorisations in the ‘specific’ category and a detailed description of the process to allow cross-border operations (e.g operations in different EASA member states); 
  • Defining a list of training objectives for remote pilots operating in the ‘specific’ category. The drone operator is requested to select those that are more appropriate for its operation;
  • New predefined risk assessment (PDRA) dedicated to Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations for linear inspections of infrastructures such power lines or rail tracks.

Development of the drone market in the EU

According to the European Union a reform of the aviation rules is necessary as EU air traffic is estimated to increase by 50% in the next 20 years. The European Commission predicts that by 2035 the European drone sector will employ more than 100,000 people, and have an economic impact exceeding €10 billion per year, mainly in services.

As the use of drones spreads, the need to balance the advantages and challenges they bring will also increase. For instance, unmanned aircraft can add value when used in gathering and interpreting data in different sectors of the economy. But drones can also pose liabilities in terms of data protection, privacy, noise and CO2 emissions.

The European Union expects the drone market to grow to a €10B industry by 2035 (click to expand the infographic)

GNSS-based geofencing

Drone maps are based on the concept of geofencing, which is a technique that ensures that a drone cannot take off from places where it is not intended to, for example near an airport. Geofencing can also ensure that a drone pilot receives a warning when it is in or near a zone where flight restrictions apply. It is then up to the drone pilot to determine whether the flight may still be carried out.

Geofencing works on the basis of a digital drone map, that contains airports, nature reserves, detention centres, water treatment plants, industrial areas, critical infrastructural works, and other zones with flight restrictions. The system intervenes based on the GNSS location of the drone. This can be at the moment of take-off, but also in the air, as the drone moves towards the edge of a no-fly zone.

Current drone flight restrictions maps

Existing regulations are different between countries, but in general drones are only permitted to fly in uncontrolled sections of airspace.

The current Dutch government website on drone rules states that unless you have been granted an exemption, you are only allowed to fly in the uncontrolled section of airspace. It does not matter if you are using your drone for recreation or to earn money (commercial use). In addition to whatever specific rules may apply to the area where you have chosen to fly, you must always comply with the general rules for flying drones.

Certain sections of airspace are temporarily or permanently off-limits to drones, like the airspace above the Royal Palace in Amsterdam or major events like Sail.

If you wish to fly over Natura 2000 areas (protected nature areas), you will need to apply for a permit from the provincial authority in question.

Current restrictions for drone flying in the South Holland area (source: GoDrone)

Mandatory use of the new drone map

Until now, drone manufacturers themselves determined whether or not to build in geofencing capabilities, and if so, how. This will change after 1 January 2023. From that date, drones with the C-label must be provided with geofencing as standard. The manufacturer must also ensure that the drone always has the most current digital drone map in its memory. The idea is that the map is automatically refreshed as soon as there is an active internet connection.

Read more: See all drone companies of the Netherlands in 2022

ESA-BIC Noordwijk startup Mapture.ai develops autonomous drones (photo: mapture.ai)

This article on DroneXL explains the new EASA guidance in more detail.

Remco Timmermans

Related post