Comparative study of European RPAS regulations

Civil aviation contributes to a chain of logistic integral transport that has as aim serve better the citizens and the society. It contributes a value added across offering rapid, trustworthy and resistant connections in a global net. For 2050, there is waited a number of different categories of aircraft to be operative, diverse in size, performance and type, in spite of some still having a pilot on board, but many directed by remote or totally automated control. The opening of the European market for remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS) therefore, is an important step for the aviation market of the future [1, 2] RPAS form part of the wider category of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The term UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) refers to those systems which involve the movement of air vehicle without a human operator on board and includes the aircraft as well as supporting ground, air, and communications infrastructure. The RPAS is a subcategory of this family, indicating all those UAS that have a human operator (or Remote Pilot - RP) operating the air vehicle from a remote position (Remote Pilot Station - RPS) and in constant control of the vehicle [3]. The aerial vehicle, called Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) has been considered by ICAO as an aircraft, so it has to comply with the Rules of the Air [4]. The term system refers to the complex nature of the RPAS, where several components need to be coordinated. RPAS integration in non-segregated airspace has been set as an objective for the future of several Civil Aviation Authorities and the industry alike. The expected integration is being studied by several agencies, providing detailed and valuable information on how to proceed step by step. Such is the case of the European RPAS Steering Group in their European Roadmap for RPAS integration [5] and the Federal Aviation Administration [6]. Also, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has set the objective of establishing the principles and rules for the RPAS to operate in airspace mixed with manned aircraft, under Instrumental Flight Rules (IFR) and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) adhering to the requirements of the specific airspace in which they are operating [6][7][8]. The study of RPAS operations involve several perspectives to consider, like regulation, airworthiness, communications and interoperability. The current lack of a common and specific regulation makes the RPAS operations available only into segregated airspace for specific military or experimental operations (after the issue of a notification of approval by the authorities). The regulation is usually beyond technical improvements so that in the RPAS operations, there are no valid standards for their integration in non-segregated airspace with the required level of safety [9]. If RPAS are to be integrated, either for civil or military applications, they will have to comply with the same rules and procedures as the other airspace users, without degradation of the safety, without disruption of current operations and without modifying ATC procedures. Therefore, it is considered that RPAS behaviour in operations must be equivalent to manned aviation, including for the air traffic control (ATC). In the European Union, the aviation safety regulator is the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and, by the moment and until the actual regulations does not change, the RPAS responsibilities are divided between the very light aircraft (MTOW under 150 kg), owned by the National Authorities, and the heavy RPAS (MTOW over 150 kg), competence of EASA [10]. While the moment when the previous division finishes (envisioned more or less by 2017 according to [1] and [5]) there are several European national authorities who are establishing their own regulations in order to facilitate the commercial expansion of the small RPAS business in their territories. This multiplicity of legislations is generating a confusing regulatory map across Europe which is hindering the natural expansion of small RPAS manufacturers and operators through the common market. This work aims to present a concise comparative study of all the available approved national regulations for small RPAS in Europe in order to highlight the main differences and coincidences among them, trying also to extract a set of conclusions that may help the regulators in order to the future establishment of a set of harmonized standards in the UE. By the moment, the study has started by analyzing and comparing the regulations approved at United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, Italy, France and Spain, but as soon as more regulations are put into force, they will be included in the study.