New regulations aim at consistent drone regulations across the European continent. That’s good news for all businesses involved in drone development, logistics, or connectivity. Read here what has changed and why that matters.

Beware the sky; it will get busier over the years ahead. Drones is what I’m talking about. They are not just great for fancy pictures, but for a wide range of commercial and industrial applications. Already today, they are used by startups, for example, in Iceland, to deliver food. Considering the landscape there, that makes perfect sense. Likewise, that would also be an exciting use case for Liechtenstein.

But it’s far more than hamburger deliveries: Human transport, cargo shipments, policing, all of that could one day happen in the sky. We may not even need roads anymore in the future. Wouldn’t that be something?

Admittedly, that future is still far away, but the first steps are made. A milestone for the future of drone development was achieved just earlier this year: New drone legislation has been made consistent throughout Europe. Such consistent regulation matters in the airspace just as much as on the ground, so businesses can develop their ideas cross-border, meaning they have a much bigger potential market.

New regulation distinguishes between categories

Up until now, drone regulations across the European Union has been inconsistent across member states. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has now produced a set of rules and tiers for several categories of drones, making EU drone regulations more consistent and easier to understand. Besides the EU member states, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland have joined the framework as well.

There have been attempts before to regulate drone technology, but mostly those were national efforts, or they have resulted in complex frameworks. The new regulation includes a tiered structure of different kinds of drones, categorized by their weight. Lighter drones will not require any authorization but will have to follow specific rules. Heavier drones will have to follow stricter rules; for example, the pilot will have to pass a fit-to-fly test online, and the drones need to be registered.

All drones purchased after the 1st January 2021 will require a CE class identification label that determines the category. One of the biggest changes is that there is no longer a distinction between personal or commercial drone use, which simplifies things greatly. Here is a summary of the latest EASA guidelines.

Setting the stage for future drone development

So why is all of that important? Because it sets the stage for startups to develop new concepts. Drones will also play a role in digitization, as they are a tool that can work autonomously in connected networks – similar to robotics technologies in production halls.

For instance, let’s go back to the hamburger delivery drones. A client could send an order through a website. Through a web-based control center, autonomous drones could fulfill the order without any human involvement. Additionally, robots may one day also take over the hamburger production, meaning the entire value-chain could work without humans.

That’s technically possible today; whether the economics behind such systems already work out is another question. The new regulations, however, show that policymakers understand where the trend is heading. That should give startups involved in this space upwind.

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