The European Union has released a new policy package for the drone service ecosystem

The European Commission has released its new strategy during the “EU Drone Days” taking place in Brussels on 29 and 30 November. The strategy wants to streamline the EU’s technological ambitions in digital and green aviation. The new policy document is the product of a long period of industry consultations through the “Drone Leaders Group”, which GUTMA’s Co-president Sebastian Babiarz has been an active member of. The Group’s final report led to the acknowledgment of GUTMA’s value pyramid as a conceptual basis for U-space-related present and future initiatives.

GUTMA’s vision of the drone operations and services market can be easily identified in what the Commission refers to as the drone services “envisioned to become part of Europeans’ daily lives by 2030”. Mapping, imaging, inspection, emergency response, and urgent delivery of small consignments are just a few promising services. “Innovative Air Mobility” for passengers is also included with the objective of fully automated operations by the end of the decade.

GUTMA’s value pyramid is thus not only embedded in the new strategy but has served as a sine-qua-non conceptual feature for the strategy, which builds on the implementation of the “U-space” in January 2023 to scale drone operations. Moreover, the plan explicitly mentions GUTMA’s and GSMA’s Aerial Connectivity Joint Activity (ACJA) and reaffirms the need to “capitalise on the existing mobile telecommunication technologies and standards” to build a more automated ATM system in Europe.

The policy document, which is downloadable here, has two parts and highlights 19 flagship actions. The first concerns the building of the drone services market – the most relevant for GUTMA activities – and is supported by eight flagship actions. The second is, given the current political situation, about strengthening civil, security, and defence industry capabilities.

The document introduces the concept of ‘Innovative Air Mobility”, which includes the transport of goods by smaller drones and of passengers by eVTOL aircraft. Cities will play a key role in the development of this segment of the market. Balanced economic and financial requirements for licensing drone operations and rules for vertiports are two other concrete measures to promote the drone industry, together with an online platform with information on the implementation of Innovative Air Mobility.

In the past ten years, the European Commission has been committed to building a regulatory framework that provides legal certainty to undertake BVLOS operations in the EU. The possibility of conducting automated long-distance BVLOS operations is a vital harbinger of the development of the drone services market and, by extension, the entire economy. This policy package is thus essential for providing companies and national rule-makers with a clear EU-wide legal framework allowing for the upscaling of the drone industry.

The future of global skies lies in continuous cooperation and dialogue. GUTMA is proud to have contributed to the process that led to the adoption of the strategy alongside the Union’s most relevant industry and institutional stakeholders.