European airport operators call for adoption of drone rulebook

By Patrick C. Miller | February 14, 2018

An organization representing more than 500 professional airport operators in Europe wants the European Union’s (EU) rulebook on the use of drones adopted quickly.

Olivier Jankovec, director general of the Airport Council International for Europe (ACI Europe), said safety issues involving the use of drones in and around airports are well documented and increasing, “underlining the urgent need for an effective regulatory framework on this.”

Jankovec added that, “The airport industry is embracing innovation and we are excited about the potential opportunities that drone technology presents, in particular in relation to infrastructure maintenance and operational efficiency, passenger facilitation and more.” ACI Europe also released a position paper on drone technology last month.

Since its release in December 2015, ACI Europe said the EU’s aviation strategy has been a major driver of the development of new regulations on drone use. With political agreement on the new European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations and the endorsement of the Helsinki Declaration by the aviation community late last year, the organization said momentum to adopt the EU’s rulebook on drone use has increased.

In considering the risks and opportunities presented by drones, ACI Europe released its paper on the position of the airport industry, which embraces the technology while calling for the swift adoption of safety and traffic management rules at EU level.

The airports operators stressed the importance of drone registration, performance-based rules and a modern approach to integrating drones at airports that relies on expedited approvals via standard scenarios and safety management systems. ACI Europe said regulatory material necessary for the next steps of drone integration includes the safety rules developed by EASA, as well as the U-Space traffic management framework.

The ACI Europe position paper recommends airport-specific protection polices, including standardized protected zones; technical systems to detect and neutralize drones; traffic management for drone operations at airports, beginning with facilitating the approval of low-risk missions; and readying the airport industry for future drone technology opportunities.