At Davos, Leaders Release Commercial Drone Guidelines for Operators
February 05, 2019      

During the recent World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, officials released a set of guidelines, recommendations, and lessons learned aimed at governments that intend to roll out and regulate commercial drone operations.

Called the Advanced Drone Operations Toolkit, the document is a response to the rapid growth of goods delivery to homes and offices. Various regulations have emerged around the world, ranging from overly restrictive to only covering parts of regulatory and commercial needs. The Toolkit covers drone delivery, autonomous technologies, and the use of drones in densely populated, or urban, areas.

The WEF said the purpose of the Toolkit is twofold – to provide governments with the necessary support to regulate drones, and to accelerate acceptance and implementation of drones by balancing safety, security, and commerce.

Over-regulation in the U.S.

Commercial and hobby use of drones is severely restricted due to the FAA’s Rule 107, which means that drones are required to stay within the operator’s boundaries. Only after explicit approval can drones fly over people, or beyond visual line of sight.

Commercial deployment, including delivery and inspection, is growing, but many feel the difficulties in obtaining BVLOS approval is limiting this growth. The FAA continues to investigate options through its UAS Integration Pilot Program, and recently announced rules that would allow unmanned aircraft systems to fly overnight and over people without waivers under certain conditions.

Europe is moving

Independently, the European Union has recently proposed drone regulation; its administration, the European Commission has released the so-called Delegated Act for European Parliament debate and approval.

The Act’s main difference with the Toolkit is that it proposes a nuanced, risk-based framework whereby an “open” category of low-risk operations is subject to fewer restrictions, and “specific” and “certified” categories of operations have clear regulations and application procedures.

It is unclear whether the Delegated Act and the Toolkit will be harmonized.

Don’t re-invent the wheel

The World Economic Forum said it hopes other governments will learn from pioneering countries’ successful and faulty regulation. “Safe, clean and scalable use of drones has become many countries’ objective”, said Harrison Wolf, author of the Toolkit report and project leader at the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Governments can now learn from the real success of prominent drone delivery projects in Africa and Europe to develop their own national regulations. Through comparative analysis of lessons learned these governments don’t have to start from scratch.”

The Toolkit’s development was supported by 10 aviation authorities from five continents, eight international governmental organizations and 23 companies, including AirMap, an app that improves drone-airplane communications. This has resulted in two case studies (Switzerland and Rwanda) and 25 concrete recommendations and experiences. During the Forum, India’s Andra Pradesh state announced it would be the first territory implementing the Toolkit fully.

Industry wants incident reduction

The Drone Manufacturers Alliance Europe (DMAE) stressed the need for clear and balanced regulation to avoid the risk of increased incidents.

“We want to emphasize the need to get on with it, rather than finding reasons to stall, otherwise safety will be compromised,” said DMAE spokeswoman Paula Iwaniuk. “Prompt adoption of EU drone rules will boost safety of drone operations.”

To download a free copy of the Toolkit, click here.