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EU Nears Plan for UAVs in Civil Airspace

Nov. 26, 2012 - 02:07PM   |  
By JULIAN HALE   |   Comments
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BRUSSELS — A European Union roadmap setting out what needs to be done to enable remotely piloted aircraft systems to fly in the same airspace as general air traffic by 2016 is due out by the end of this year.

Meetings between officials preparing future technologies and those preparing future regulations have been held every week since early September with a view to producing the roadmap, Christian Bréant, the European Defence Agency’s research and technology director, said. Key players include the European Commission, Eurocontrol and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The idea is to achieve initial capability for remotely piloted aircraft systems to fly in general airspace — with some restrictions — by 2016, and to achieve full operational capability by 2020.

This is all part of an EU drive to boost civil-military cooperation in research and technology, and is being done via a so-called European Framework Cooperation agreement between the European Defence Agency and the European Commission as they bid to find synergies and create a common research agenda.

In early 2013, officials will be looking at what it will cost to put the roadmap into practice. The idea is that money for specific projects will then be paid out from the EU’s civilian Horizon 2020 program and the European Defence Agency’s joint investment program.

This ties in with a push for more research into dual-use technologies set out in a declaration by the French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish foreign affairs and defense ministers during a Nov. 15 meeting in Paris.

In their written declaration, the ministers called on the EU to “continue to play a major role in innovation and technological progress and keep its defense capabilities and skills. To that end we consider Europe must strive to boost its efforts in the area of R&T [research and technology] and enhance synergies between Member states’ defense-related R&T activities and using EDA in a facilitating role.

“In this regard, the better use of the opportunities offered by the European framework program for research and technology, in particular concerning dual-use technologies, should be further explored. To this end, all involved actors should have a constructive dialogue on the preparation of the coming Framework Programme Horizon 2020.”

The European Commission and the EDA are already trying to coordinate their research activities in chemical and biological protection. Other areas where dual-use technologies could emerge are cyber defense, unmanned maritime systems and key enabling technologies, such as materials based on carbon fiber and on gallium nitride for high performance radar and electronic warfare.

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