The Federal Government and the Federal Council have already positioned themselves, now it is the Bundestag’s turn. In a public hearing today, the responsible committee for transport and digital infrastructure questioned eight invited experts in order to get a more precise picture of how the “draft law for the adaptation of national regulations to the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 of 24 May 2019 on the rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles “ in science and drone economy. And clear changes were called for.
“That was a really interesting hearing, we really learned a lot.” With these words, Daniela Kluckert (FDP), Deputy Chairwoman of the Committee on Transport and Digital Infrastructure in the German Bundestag, closed the public hearing on the federal government’s draft to adapt national aviation legislation to the requirements of the European drone regulation. Indeed, the statements of the invited experts did not lack clarity. Almost unanimously, they called for improvements to the draft prepared in the Federal Ministry of Transport. In particular with regard to questions of responsibilities and the enormous number of prohibitions, the experts called for clear changes. “Geographical zones are misunderstood here as prohibited zones,” said Felix Gottwald, himself a commercial pilot and ATS and UAS expert from the cockpit pilots’ association right at the beginning of the hearing. “The EU thinks very differently.”
In particular, the clear discrepancy between the federal government’s declared goal of making Germany the lead market for drone technology ( reading tip: action plan presented by the federal government) on the one hand and the present BMVI draft on the other hand played a central role in the speeches. “The bill is hostile to innovation,” says Dario Manns, CIO, and co-founder of Fairfleet GmbH. “For example, the relationship between the enormous amount of effort involved in applying for BVLOS operations and the income to be generated afterward is simply not right.” Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dieter Moormann from the Chair and Institute for Flight System Dynamics at RWTH Aachen University even spoke of “blanket bans” that made it difficult to actually implement the many useful applications for drone technology. Not without obvious amusement, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Florian Holzapfel from the Technical University of Munich pointed out that that the submitted air traffic regulations with a view to the protection of flora and fauna would prohibit inspection flights with drones in certain areas in which the same tasks could be carried out by manned helicopters in a completely legally compliant manner. “The careful monitoring of nature reserves is made more difficult,” agreed Prof. Moorman expressly.
The experts questioned were largely in agreement that a kind of paradigm shift was necessary with a view to the aviation regulations presented. Instead of naming an excessive number of prohibitions, it is much more sensible to define guidelines on which the drone operation can be oriented. Higher goals – for example, operational safety, environmental protection, protection of personal rights, and the like – should be named. A ban should only take place where adequate consideration is not guaranteed. In other words, a kind of “reversal of evidence” compared to the present government draft, according to which the prohibition would be the far-reaching rule, the approval an exceptional case to be justified. According to the experts, this attitude would be At the end of the day, by the way, in the interests of the regulatory authorities, who would be given clear guidelines in this way. “Regular operations by exception overwhelm the authorities,” explained Prof. Holzapfel.
There was also great agreement that a central body such as the Federal Aviation Office for the approval of drone missions in the “special category” according to the EU drone regulation should be referred to a federal solution with 16 state authorities. On the one hand, this would promote consistent approval practice and, on the other hand, prevent the expensive build-up of personnel and expertise in 16-fold implementation. “Drones can be used extremely sensibly,” Dario Manns stated. “To hinder this by splitting up the responsibilities would be fatal.” After all, (unmanned) aviation is highly complex, much more complex than, for example, road traffic. To build up the necessary expertise with a view to the concerns of the drone economy on the part of the regulatory authorities,
Various experts also emphasized the time factor in their speeches. Germany lost valuable time due to the slow implementation of the European requirements. “Companies need planning security,” said PD Dr. Thomas Kirschstein from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. “Other countries are a little further ahead.” Cockpit representative Felix Gottwald criticized not only the leader of the European neighbors. From his point of view, Germany has not even done the basic homework to remain internationally competitive. “We need a plan, a vision of where we want to be in a few years in terms of drone use. And then we can think of regulation from this end, ”explained Gottwald. “With the drone regulation and the upcoming U-Space regulation, the EU has presented a vision that has not yet been discussed in Germany. The presented bill, therefore, corresponds to the state of affairs two or three years ago. ”