In the rapidly evolving world of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Europe stands at the forefront of a transformative era. As UAVs become an integral part of various industries, from logistics and agriculture to surveillance and entertainment, the need for comprehensive and adaptable regulations is more pressing than ever. The dynamic landscape of UAV regulations in Europe, including the challenges and opportunities that regulators and stakeholders are actively addressing, share a common goal: to establish a safe and harmonized framework that not only fosters technological innovation but also opens doors for new business horizons.
What are some of the upcoming trends in the European regulatory environment? How can we expect these to affect progress in the industry? Here are two points Adriana Martínez and I would like to highlight from Urban Ray's perspective:
SORA 2.5: SORA 2.0, the framework for assessing safety and risk factors for UAVs in the specific category, is currently being reworked by JARUS official (Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems) WG-SRM and EASA - European Union Aviation Safety Agency. SORA stands for “Specific Operations Risk Assessment” and provides a structured guideline for analyzing operations, associated risks, and necessary mitigation measures to ensure safe operations. The current version provides a qualitative approach to some topics, and the SORA 2.5 update aims to shift into a more quantitative path that allows operators to gather and present evidence in a more standardized way. Additionally, SORA 2.5 will allow for new mitigation measures that provide operators with more tools to reduce the ground risk. This framework will be offered to stakeholders by EASA as Acceptable Means of Compliance, facilitating how operators in the European Union seek their operational approval. Efforts by JARUS and EASA task forces aim for a release soon in 2024 for all EU member states.
One key takeaway from one of the most important gatherings of industry and authorities of the year (European Drone Forum 2023): SAIL II drone operations have become the “new normal”. Not only have more than 2,000 operational approvals using SORA been issued in the EU so far (legal framework availably in Germany for example since 2021), but a recent survey conducted by our industry association UAV DACH - Association for Unmanned Aviation and presented last week shows that more than 122,000 operating hours have been reported. The actual number might be even higher, as only data from participants in the survey could be processed. Of this total number, around 40,000 hours were performed by operators and more than 17,500 hours under SAIL II operational approvals. Among these remarkable 17,500 hours, only 21 “loss of control” events were reported, and zero injuries or fatalities! These numbers do not reflect the full picture of European SAIL II activities, but they do express an impressive record that exceeds even SORA’s target loss of control probability of 10^-2. Remarkably, authorities have also put great effort into providing guidance on the approval process for SAIL IV and higher. This marks a significant advance from the situation just one year ago when the focus was on kick-starting SAIL I and II.
Today, it is not only possible but has become the industry standard. At Urban Ray, we are fully committed to making scaled drone operations a reality, starting with SAIL II operations.