The development of drone (unmanned aircraft systems - UAS) services supported by a competitive industry can strongly support Europe’s twin transition to green and digital economy, contribute to the post-COVID 19 recovery and to the future resilience of the EU economy. The European Green Deal, calls for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as the development of digitalisation. The Commission adopted in 2020 a strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, which included the intention to also “adopt a ‘Drone Strategy 2.0’ setting out possible ways to guide the further development of this technology and its regulatory and commercial environment“. The EU needs to ensure the safe and efficient development of a drone ecosystem, addressing other related societal concerns such as safety, security, privacy and environmental protection while simultaneously ensuring a sustainable economic environment for the European drone industry to grow.
A first European regulatory framework is now in place since 2019 and today, further and new action is needed at EU level because the sector is developing rapidly with new innovative ways of using drones emerging at a fast pace requiring an assessment of the regulatory and enabling framework to ensure that these new services can thrive in the EU internal market. Related technologies such as radiofrequency communication, Artificial Intelligence, advanced sensors and improvements in power sources are opening new prospects. Conversely, the fact that customised drones can also be used for illegal purposes should be addressed. It is important that Europe safeguards its open strategic autonomy in this area. For the competitiveness of the European drone eco-system as well as Europe’s defence capabilities, reaping synergies between the civil, including counter-drones technologies and military use of drones is an important success factor.
The application of UAS is becoming very popular in many areas with services in agriculture, transport, survey, surveillance etc., and it will be a growing economic sector in the coming years.
JRC has been collaborating and will continue to collaborate with the several policy DGs and different stakeholders involved offering its expertise to connect the dots in this fast-moving domain both in the drone and counter drone domains.