What’s the state of international BVLOS and UTM drone laws?

What’s the state of international BVLOS and UTM drone laws? 2023 is set to see major changes in the regulatory space, especially given that the European U-Space and the American remote ID rule are both set to become effective this year.

Rules, roll-out timelines and operational limitations around beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and uncrewed traffic management (UTM) vary by country. So to keep it simple, the folks over at Drone Industry Insights put together a handy table featuring some of the major countries, spelling out whether they have certain rules, exemptions and pilot projects, while also outlining what proposed amendments are coming to the UTM and BVLOS segment.

Check it out below (or see the Drone Industry Insights complete analysis here):

international BVLOS and UTM DII
What’s the state of international BVLOS and UTM drone laws?

Once regulatory frameworks for BVLOS and UTM are put in place in their countries, drone industry experts predict to see a major boost, especially when it comes to airspace safety and the advancement of drone laws in general.

UTM is a sort of air traffic control for drones. But unlike humans in watch towers near airport, UTM is set to be a digital system and, considering drones can take off and land pretty much anywhere, far more scalable. While many countries listed above already have guidelines, standards, draft rules or ongoing government trial programs, some industry advocates are calling for a more wide scale global implementation of UTM systems.

And for that to work, most industry players are calling for drone certification as a way to ensure the aircraft themselves meet an acceptable level of safety — and thus mitigating risks of crashes or other dangers.

Major developments in international BVLOS and UTM rules by country

The past few years have seen some major changes in certifications, BVLOS and UTM. Because so much is changing (and some countries move faster than others), DOO developed a Drone Readiness Index, which compares national drone regulation frameworks among the major countries playing in the drone space.

DII’s Drone Readiness Index analyzes countries on six parameters: applicability, operational scope, human resources, administrative infrastructure, certification, and airspace integration. The United Kingdom and Australia top the rankings in DII’s index with an overall of readiness 72% each.

But interesting stuff is happening all around the world, so here’s a breakdown of some of the most significant developments by country.

EASA countries

EASA, short for the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, is sort of like the Federal Aviation Administration but for most of Europe, serving the EASA member states, which is most of Europe.

EASA made big moves in 2019 when it published a set of common rules around drones, including establishing three categories of drone operations and creating drone registration requirements.

Perhaps most notably is that EASA published “special conditions” for the issuance of a type certificate for drones up to 600kg for operating drones under medium risk in the “specific category” of (EU) 2019/947.

As of 2024, drone operators in Europe will need a special class identification label if they want to fly drones for most types of use cases, including flying for hobby or leisure purposes too.

The U.S.

One of the big efforts for the U.S.’s FAA in 2022 was making recommendations for creating BVLOS rules. Experts predict that a proposed rule for BVLOS operation will be made public by the end of 2023.

Another big focus area was defining airworthiness requirements for drones used in advanced operations, such as delivery. While EASA classified drones into three categories, the U.S.’s FAA took a different approach by publishing airworthiness criteria of 10 specific drone types with maximum weight of 40kg.

Taiwan

Taiwan shot up the rankings in the DII readiness index this year, gaining 35 points more than it had in the same ranking last year — and scoring a spot on the podium as third place finisher of countries most ready for drones.

Taiwan is likely set to incorporate a remote ID standard equivalent to the FAA’s remote ID rule soon. It’s also set to trial drone deliveries in 2023, following a UTM trial in a remote area that began in July 2022.

So what’s to come? The timeline varies not just by country, but by issue.

“Some of these challenges will be addressed in the short term (e.g.  SORA standards and the introduction of remote ID services),” according to a statement from II. “Other challenges like standardizing BVLOS flights or advanced UTM services are more medium-term and might influence all segments only in three to five years. Finally, there are also challenges with long-term effect, such as the implementation of drone certification and the integration of drones into urban airspaces.”

If you’re interested in learning more about international BVLOS and UTM developments, check out DII’s analysis on the evolution of drone laws here.

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