The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published new proposed regulations governing the operation of vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft, including drones and air taxis, in Europe’s cities.
In the Opinion No. 03/2023 document, released on August 31, EASA requested that the European Commission make several amendments to existing EU aviation regulations in support of future urban air mobility operations, and the authors put forward two additional proposals for new regulations.
One of the two new proposals pertains to the continuing airworthiness of certified uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and the approval of organizations and personnel involved. The second lays down “competent authority requirements and administrative procedures” for those responsible for overseeing continuing airworthiness certification activities.
“With this, we will achieve a harmonized regulatory framework to ensure the safe, sustainable, and secure introduction of VTOL operations,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky. Some eVTOL aircraft developers are planning to launch commercial air taxi services in European cities such as Paris, London, and Munich as early as 2024.
EASA first released a draft of its proposed VTOL rules in June 2022, when it issued Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) 2022-06 and initiated a three-month public consultation period. That document spelled out EASA’s proposed requirements for every aspect of future UAS and air taxi operations, including flight crew licensing, air traffic management, and the certification and maintenance of aircraft.
According to the new Opinion, EASA’s proposals received responses from several “interested parties, including industry, national aviation authorities, aircraft manufacturers and operators, and service providers.” Those responses were published online August 31, and EASA summarized them in Opinion No. 03/2023.
Following the public consultation period, EASA worked with dedicated expert groups to review the comments, revise the proposals, and deliver a final version to the European Commission, which will ultimately decide whether to implement those changes.
The new Opinion contains proposed amendments to several existing regulations, including new rules for airworthiness, environmental certification, and the certification of aircraft designs and production processes. It also includes requirements and procedures for air operators and flight crew, as well as navigation and air traffic control services for operators of uncrewed aerial systems (UAS), and the management of cybersecurity risks.
“This is the last piece of regulation required to enable the launch of VTOL and air taxi services for innovative air mobility,” Ky said. “Once this has passed into law, individual manufacturers and operators will of course need to obtain all the required approvals from various authorities, but the framework rules for these operations will be complete.”
On September 1, Luc Tytgat was appointed as EASA’s acting executive director, succeeding Ky, who is leaving the agency at the end of his second five-year mandate in the office. Tygat has been with the air safety agency since January 2015 when he joined as director of strategy and safety management after having been responsible for air transport and space policy at the European Commission.