“After NPA 2022-06 on rules and standards for the operation of air taxis in cities… the whole legal framework on single skies and segregated airspaces for drones should be at full speed on 12 September 2023,” state Eleonora Bassi and Ugo Pagallo of the Polytechnic University of Turin, in ‘A Guide to EU Drones Law, and its Work in Progress.’
EASA is currently looking into the comments submitted by various stakeholders, and plans to release their Opinion and detailed comment response document (CRD) around the beginning of the third quarter of 2023.
The NPA puts forward the establishment of a comprehensive regulatory framework to address the new operational and mobility concepts that foster and promote their acceptance and adoption by European citizens.
(Editor’s Note: EASA last week published its process for “special conditions” for flight simulation training devices using new technologies such as virtual reality or new aircraft types such as ‘air taxis’)
IAM, UAM, VCA
NPA 2022-06 introduces some novel terminology to the market, such as Innovative Air Mobility (IAM), which EASA defines as “the safe, secure, and sustainable air mobility of passengers and cargo enabled by new-generation technologies integrated into a multimodal transportation system”.
A traditional (if a few years usage can be considered traditional) phrase - Urban Air Mobility (UAM) – is “a subset of IAM operations conducted in to, within or out of urban environments”-
VTOL-capable aircraft (VCA) – without the ‘e’ for electric – are a “power-driven, heavier-than-air aircraft, other than aeroplane or rotorcraft, capable of performing vertical takeoff and landing by means of lift or thrust units used to provide lift during take-off and landing”.
“This NPA is a significant one addressing… Manned EVTOL operations, also known as Urban and Regional mobility and covering passengers and cargo operations… Flight Crew Licensing… and SERA (Standardized European Rules of the Air)”, noted Yves Morier, retired EASA Principal Advisor for New Technologies.
For the future integration of VTOL-capable aircraft into the transportation systems of EU Member States, EASA found it appropriate to employ the regulatory infrastructure available today for aeroplanes and helicopters with the necessary amendments considering novel aircraft designs, types of propulsion, and concepts of operation.
“The concept of innovative air mobility (IAM) accommodates commercial and non-commercial operations with novel aircraft designs that do not automatically fall under one of the known categories of aeroplanes or helicopters, but which have the capability to vertically takeoff and land, have specific (distributed) propulsion features, may be operated in unmanned configuration, etc,” reads the NPA.
“That concept has been reflected in the new Annex IX (Part-IAM) to Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012, and will gradually address two major aspects of VTOL-capable aircraft operations:
- Manned configuration (with the present NPA), and
- Unmanned configuration (with a subsequent, future NPA under RMT.0230)”.
Annex IX (Part-IAM) consists of four subparts:
- General (GEN),
- Operating Procedures (OP),
- Aircraft Performance and Operating Limitations (POL), and
- Instruments, Data and Equipment (IDE)
“Each subpart, except GEN, is structured in two modules: operations in congested (urban) areas (Module-UAM) and operations in non-congested areas (Module-NAM). Module-UAM will include operations with VTOL-capable aircraft in densely populated urban areas or between such areas and suburbs where transportation centres/hubs may be located (known as congested areas) or originating from a congested area to a non-congested area”, according to the NPA.
“Operators that intend to conduct countryside-to-countryside operations with VTOL-capable aircraft without flying over or taking off from / landing at urban areas would be subject to Module-NAM (non-urban, non-congested air mobility). That module will be mostly relevant for non-commercial, low-risk operations with VTOL-capable aircraft”.
The proposed amendments to EASA AIR OPS are of particular interest. “Today, air operations with aeroplanes and helicopters are governed by Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012. That Regulation also lays down provisions for the certification of commercial air transport (CAT) operators that operate aircraft (aeroplanes and helicopters) registered in the EU Member States”, the NPA says. “However, that Regulation does not contain appropriate provisions for the safe operation of UAS and of VTOL-capable aircraft and for the certification of operators of such aircraft.
“The transportation of persons and/or cargo by VTOL-capable aircraft in congested (urban) or outside congested areas requires a level of safety that is at least as high as that applicable to operations with conventional aeroplanes or helicopters. In some respects, the precautionary principle should be exercised until more data on operations with innovative aircraft is gathered”.
The proposed amendments to EASA AIR OPS also foresee a specific approval (SPA) for emergency medical service operations (SPA.VEMS).
The main purpose of the SERA (Standardised European Rules for the Air) provisions, Morier said, “is to provide for a safe, orderly and efficient air traffic management and help avoid mid-air collisions. One of the underlying SERA principles is ‘see and avoid’, which shall be used by the pilot-in-command as last line of defence to avoid mid-air collision in all airspace classes.”
NPA 2022-06 proposes amendments to several existing regulations including Commission Regulation (EU) No 748/2012 on initial airworthiness, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945, Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012 on air operations, Commission Regulation (EU) No 1178/2011 on air crew, and Commission Regulation (EU) No 923/2012 on the rules of the air.
The NPA also foresees two Draft Commission Delegated Regulations which are yet to be numbered; the first deals with the continuing airworthiness of certified unmanned aircraft systems and their components, and on the approval of organisations and personnel involved in these tasks, while the second deals with competent authority requirements and administrative procedures for the certification, oversight, and enforcement of the continuing airworthiness of unmanned aircraft systems.