Brussels, Belgium, April 2021 – Efus took part in a workshop organised (online) on 2 March by the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) of the European Commission on the use of drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), and the measures that can be taken to effectively control and monitor their use, which can, intentionally or otherwise, prove dangerous.
Increased popularity, increased risks
Indeed, the increasing popularity of drones comes with increased risks: users can lose control and the aircrafts can hit people or facilities, or infringe on the right to privacy. Furthermore, criminals or terrorists can use them to cause damage or carry out illegal activities. One of the most spectacular cases seen in recent years was the drone sighting incident that paralysed Gatwick Airport (near London) for 33 hours in December 2018, leading to the cancellation of about 1,000 flights. A worse scenario would be to see drones used in a terrorist attack in a crowded place.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) passed a new set of uniform drone regulations last December. EU Member States along with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, as well as the UK, now all follow the same regulations as to the height, places and circumstances in which you can fly a drone.
The European Programme for counter-UAS testing
The EU is also looking at how to strengthen security against drones across Europe, in particular in urban public spaces. The DG Home has thus established a European Programme for counter-UAS systems testing, which is “intended to facilitate a more common European approach to the testing of UAS countermeasures for use in Europe” with the objective of creating a European Counter-UAS testing network. The workshop on 2 March was aimed at discussing this programme with representatives of various Member States and EU agencies, as well as law-enforcement networks and international organisations such as Efus.
Cities are particularly concerned
Cities are vulnerable to the malicious use of drones, or to the accidents they can provoke, but they are also increasingly users of the technology as part of their own security systems. This concerns public spaces in particular, which are inherently vulnerable given their open nature.
Representing Efus, Pilar De La Torre, Programme Manager, thus presented the extensive work carried out by Efus in this area, in particular through the current European projects PACTESUR, Cutting Crime Impact, and Secu4All, as well as its working group on Security & Innovation.
She stressed the importance for national and European authorities to take into account the needs of cities, and to associate them in the reflection on how to embrace/respond to this technology, as was done by the DG HOME by inviting Efus to the workshop.
Taking stock of on-going initiatives
Representatives of about 20 Member States, several Commission’s directorate generals, representatives of the Council and the Parliament, as well as a number of EU agencies took stock of ongoing initiatives. The EU-funded DroneWISE project, whose partners participated in the recent Efus web conference on drones, and Skyfall project presented their activities. In addition, international organisations and representatives from a number of non-EU member states participated in the exchanges. Remaining challenges such as engagement with local-level authorities and civil society and the complexity of different legal frameworks were pointed out.
An upcoming handbook to help cities protect themselves against non-cooperative drones
In response to these challenges, the DG HOME intends to publish a handbook to help cities protect themselves against hostile drones. They are organising jointly with Efus a workshop on 12 May to discuss the content of this handbook, to which Efus invites all interested members.
The handbook is intended to be an easily accessible, non-technical document for use by many different stakeholders in an urban context, including competent national authorities, drone operators, private industry interests, but also civil society and regional and local government authorities. DG HOME and Efus are co-organising this workshop in order to ensure that the viewpoints of local-level government stakeholders are reflected in the Handbook.
DG HOME will also invite representatives of the cities affiliated with the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Initiative Cities Community (UIC2) of the EU’s Smart Cities Marketplace.
> For more information on the workshop and to register see Efus Network here.
> See also the interview with the cities of Turin and Edinburgh on the use of drones in public spaces that we published last month
> For more information or to join our working group on Security & Technology, please contact Pilar De La Torre (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Pauline Lesch (email@example.com)